Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A few of the things jury panelists told the prosecutor

Questioned by lead prosecutor Michael Jarrett, prospective jurors said some remarkable things about their understanding of the alleged crimes of tax collector Buddy Skeen.

Mr. Jarrett is skilled at questioning veniremen; his expertise shows in the responses he elicits from ordinary men and women confronted with the full weight and majesty of the criminal law. He was first assistant DA in Dallas County, transferred to Williamson County, and took over his duties in Waco as soon as Abel Reyna took office in 2011.

“You've got to want to be on this jury – or any jury,” Mr. Jarrett told a woman. He based his remark on her answers to a jury questionnaire.

Why did she wish to serve on the jury that will decide the punishment of the beleaguered tax collector?

“To hear the truth,” she answered. “To hear if he did what they say he did with our money.”

As it turned out, she believed Mr. Skeen had stolen tax dollars. Mr. Jarrett told her that is false, that he misapplied those dollars. Under the terms of the statute and the indictment, he need only prove that Mr. Skeen misapplied the money in his accounts.

The law requires no proof of motive, or what actually became of the money, he insisted.

He need only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the funds from a fiduciary property – a county-owned pickup – were misapplied.

“How many of you have a positive image of Mr. Skeen?” he asked.

Only two persons raised their hands.

“How many of you have a negative image of Mr. Skeen?”

No one raised their hands. This crowded room filled with adults saw a moment or two when no one would look at another person's face.

After the moment passed, he asked who believes that every word spoken from the witness chair is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. “How many of you believe that no lie has ever been told by someone sitting in that chair?

Not one soul raised their hand. Instead, both men and women giggled like naughty little school children.

Another woman at first said she believed Mr. Skeen bought a pickup with tax money.


Then she said she thought he stole public funds.

Wrong again.

Mr. Jarrett said he is prepared to prove that he knowingly and intentionally caused the figures representing the “fiduciary property,” something similar to a forfeiture fund because it represents the worth of something the public trusts him to care for, to be entered on the wrong line in a ledger, or cash journal.

“Our allegation is that it cost the county money.”

His intentions would become plain through the introduction of evidence and testimony, he assured his listeners.

“The only two crimes in which intent is not required (to be proven),” he said, “are DWI and criminal trespassing.” In those offenses, the facts speak for themselves.

Furthermore, he pointed out, “The law doesn't require that the defendant receive personal benefit from the transaction.”

In an exchange prompted by a venireman's response to one of the questions on the form, Mr. Jarrett asked if anyone had experience with a friend or relative who had been accused of being less than honest with public funds.

Referring to the chart, he called a man by his name, and he replied, saying “I had a friend who was prosecuted for embezzlement in the state of Missouri. She wasn't handled right...The judge should have recused herself.”

The judge bounced up to a very upright sitting position. His face colored, and he became very alert as the attorneys on both sides of the question filled in diagrams on the little charts they keep of the jurors by their venire number and seating position.

No comments:

Post a Comment