59th/Admiral shooting trial postscript: One more court victory

gavel.jpgAs reported here after a King County Superior Court jury exonerated an Alki 18-year-old on Friday in the 10/13/07 deadly shooting inside a car at 59th/Admiral, the trial had one more phase: Since the teen’s legal team had filed a request, as allowed under state law, for compensation for what he’s gone through if it was found that this was justifiable homicide — the jury cleared him on the grounds of self-defense — the jury needed to convene again to consider that part of the case. That took all day today, after which both jurors and the teen’s mother had something to say — read on for our courtroom correspondent’s report:

By Rachel Gabrielle
West Seattle Blog contributing reporter

The recently acquitted defendant in the 59th/Admiral shooting trial entered the courtroom today handcuff-free and with a huge smile for the civil hearing of this case.

Under Washington state law, the former defendant is entitled to compensation, including legal fees (his lawyers worked for free), if there was an acquittal and if the jury based their verdict on reasons of self-defense.

Today, the jury heard succinct statements from both the defense and the State and were asked to answer two questions. Only ten out of the 12 jurors needed to agree on both questions.

The first question simply asked whether or not the verdict was based on self-defense. That answer came back “yes.” The second question asked if they believed the defendant was engaged in criminal activity leading up to the shooting. That answer came back “no,” meaning a full victory for the defense in this case.

Getting both those answers means there will be a future hearing regarding the actual amount that will be awarded. (WSB will report it when that date is set.)

With that verdict, the jury was free to go and free to discuss the case. The defense lawyers and their client wanted to hang around and thank all the jurors for their decision; when the jurors left the courtroom today, all 12 jurors wanted to talk to them.

One juror said, “The only hope we have for [the former defendant] is that he gets the counseling and help that he needs.”

Some of the jurors actually congratulated the attorneys on a job well done. Another juror commented on the police investigation as “botched.” One of them wanted to know more about the criminal history of the man who was killed, 33-year-old Francisco Bailey-Ortiz, which wasn’t allowed as evidence during the trial.

One juror gave the former defendant a hug.

His mother announced, “We say my son was reborn on October 31. We thank you all for this great opportunity in life.” Mostly, all the jurors wanted to wish him the best in life and offer their sympathy, with one last juror saying “make us proud.”

WSB was the only news organization to cover this trial. Our archive of coverage is as follows:

10/13/07: Day-of coverage of the shooting
10/13/08: Trial begins
10/16/08: Jury selection continues
10/20/08: Jury seated
10/21/08: Testimony begins
10/22/08: Testimony continues
10/23/08: Prosecution rests its case
10/27/08: Defendant takes the stand

10/28/08: Defendant’s family testifies
10/29/08: Testimony concludes
10/30/08: Jury deliberations begin
10/31/08: Verdict: Not guilty on all counts; teenager released from jail after more than a year

8 Replies to "59th/Admiral shooting trial postscript: One more court victory"

  • CM November 4, 2008 (6:02 am)

    So, where does this “compensation” come from? The estate of Bailey-Ortiz or our pockets?

  • Law Student November 4, 2008 (6:37 am)

    The state pays. The law is designed to discourage the state from prosecuting someone who was obviously acting in self-defense. If you are upset by this verdict you might want to contact Dan Satterberg and tell him he should not have prosecuted this case.

  • Rachel Gabrielle November 4, 2008 (7:26 am)

    It wasn’t “obvious” that this was a self defense case in the beginning, however, if the police had conducted a more thorough investigation, I think it would have been obvious. Unfortunately, because they had their suspect in custody, the police got lazy about their investigation. As you read in my post, one of the jurors even called it “botched.”

  • Lawyer November 4, 2008 (7:59 am)

    I agree with the verdict, once all of the evidence is considered, and agree that the former defendant should be compensated by the state. But I don’t fault the procecution for filing the case – the prosecutor’s office was doing its job. It was not an obvious or clear-cut case of self defense from the beginning, one might say it actually appeared premeditated. In our justice system, the prosecutor has discretion to file but it is not his/her job to render a verdict in a case where there is conflicting evidence or where it is possible to reach different conclusions. In such cases, that is solely the job of the jury and we expect prosecutors not to abuse their discretion by submitting the case to a jury.

    If you don’t like how the system works it’s not the prosector’s office that can or should change it.

  • L.I. November 4, 2008 (9:37 am)

    This case was a series of shoddy and superficial investigative work and overzealous prosecution. Which all resulted in a completely exonerated high school student having to spend an entire year locked up in a jail with real criminals. For having committed no crime. (And yet our justice system allegedly considers you innocent until proven guilty?)

    Criminals go to jail to “pay their debt” to society. Well, when you had no debt to pay to society, because you did not commit a crime, and yet the prosecution had petitioned the court to keep you in jail with an initial request of 500k bail, the state must then pay its debt to you. The attorneys fees that accumulated in his defense, and the lost time robbed from the boy are and should be compensable.

    And “lawyer”, there was no tangible evidence that the act was premeditated; just the prosecution’s argument of “hey, he must have thought about it before he did it!” In actuality, the hundreds of phone calls from the decedent to the boy before the act show incessant harassment by the decedent until the boy acquiesced and got in his car. There were numerous eyewitnesses to a physical fight between the two in the car before the shooting, which further support an act of self defense. If the shooting were premeditated, it wouldn’t have happened in broad daylight on a well-populated street, while the boy was sitting, seat-belted, inside the car, making himself very vulnerable to attack by the predator.

    These are fairly obvious inferences, and the jury seemed to agree, having to deliberate for only a short time to come to the conclusion that the boy’s act was completely justifiable. Completely justifiable. And these are, for the most part, legally unsophisticated jurors. Yet they could still look at the evidence and see the act was entirely justifiable. Perhaps the prosecution, with its extensive prosecutorial discretion and expensive legal education, should have taken a closer look at the evidence, as well.

    (Interestingly enough, from my recollection, the prosecutor did not even argue the elements of premeditation in his closing argument, effectively moving on the the lesser charges he was asking for. I cannot speak on anyone’s behalf, but that signals that he might not have believed the jury could find premeditation on the facts presented.)

    I find it sad that after all the injustice perpetrated against this boy, first by a predator, and second by our criminal system, people are concerned with taxes going up. It’s not that people shouldn’t be angry. People should be furious. Furious that prosecutors are expending our tax dollars on cases of justifiable acts taken in defense of one’s own life when they could perhaps be focusing on finding and putting away the abusers that prey on children to begin with.

  • Lawyer November 4, 2008 (10:33 am)

    L.I. – You’ll note that I started my post by stating that I agree with the verdict and agree that the defendant should be compensated. You make a lot of good points, my only point is that they are points that should be considered and determined conclusively by a jury (as intended by our justice system) because there are counter-points. Botched investigation or not, from the reports of the trial it appears that this case really comes down to circumstantial evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. Those are not things that the prosecutor is charged with deciding, instead the prosecutor is charged with presenting what evidence there is to a jury in order for a jury to decide.

  • L.I. November 4, 2008 (2:39 pm)

    I, too, have plenty of idealistic faith in our system and the way it should operate. I’m glad that we are both in agreement as to whether the boy deserves compensation for his lost time and legal fees.

    Our justice system does indeed depend on juries to make credibility determinations. However, we both know very few cases of self defense rest on direct evidence alone. Often, an accumulation of corroborating circumstantial evidence paints just as clear a picture of what happened. However, for the sake of argument, we can assume there was conflicting circumstantial evidence that might warrant a trial.

    I wasn’t only making the point that prosecutors should take care when filing these cases. There are plenty of decisions that could have been made differently to have rendered the process more just.

    The boy — who had no prior record and posed no danger to the public — could have been allowed to live with his family to await trial, instead of being forced to live with real criminals. He could have finished high school with some semblance of normalcy instead of being ripped out of his community and isolated in a jail cell for over a year. He turned 18 in jail, and spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail. What should have been an incredibly formative time for him in the grand scheme of his life became a dehumanizing and lonely year he will likely be trying to forget for a long time. Instead of spending that year preparing himself for the step of leaving home for college like others his age, he had to spend it trying not to be permanently impacted by his seclusion.

    Requesting a bail amount that effectively ensured the boy would sit in a jail cell for almost 13 months awaiting trial was completely unnecessary.

  • Rick November 4, 2008 (9:35 pm)

    WA state has one of the best self defense laws in the country. If someone is committing a violent felony against you, you have a right to use force up to and including lethal force to defend yourself.
    Unfortunately, the police and prosecutors in this state have a bad habit of totally ignoring this fact.
    As a crime victim one night several years ago, this was brought to my attention in a rather unpleasant manner. I was assaulted by a drug using roommate who pursued me into my bedroom. He was 32 years younger than me, and bigger than me. I prevailed only because after trying to keep him off of me by hitting him with a large flashlight, which he got away from me and swung at me I retrieved my gun. No shots were necessary, and I got him out of my room. I was arrested for assault.
    I lost my lease on my home, where I had put much money into building a workshop, much more money in lawyer fees, bail, and time lost from work. The charges were dropped, but there is no provision to compensate those of us who don’t go to trial. It took a year to get back my guns.
    My assailant had a long, recent criminal record. I’ve had only a couple of misdemeanors, which were pardoned over a quarter century ago, and no trouble since, until I was arrested for defending myself.
    To summarize, it’s way too easy for the police and prosecutors to charge someone who is defending themselves, and there is no help for the falsely accused unless they go all the way to trial. This young man lost a whole year out of his life, for defending his life legally. Fortunately for me I only lost the equivalent of 6 months of my earnings. We need the castle doctrine law, which presumes innocence when a self defense claim is made, and penalties for officials who make false charges.

Sorry, comment time is over.