Written by Michael Flinner Wednesday, 02 December 2009
“Accidentally On Purpose”
“Memoirs and regrets of a death-qualified juror”
So, I’m sitting here pondering the chemical makeup of these miraculous teeth-whitening formulas, trying to decide which one could possibly remove the years of filth plastered upon virtually absent enamel that should shine in this hideous mouth of mine. It then occurs to me that my credit union has a fairly attractive interest rate for used car loans through the end of the month; how John Elway seems way more unstoppable in his retirement than he ever was on the football field, even in 1999 with his MVP and turn-of-the-century superbowl ring.
I can’t begin to imagine the uncertainty in the minds of the hijackers on United flight 175. Did they even know which tower was which? Hey, doesn’t John Elway actually own a Ford dealership? Now there’s a novel concept. For an hour and eighteen minutes (give or take), I’ve had an insatiable hankering for a colossal mountain of chili cheese fries.
Yes, you may’ve guessed it —– I’m stuck on jury duty. Seated next to me is a woman. She has more hair on her chin than I do and clearly, she’s an old as Copernicus. Dust literally escapes her lungs each and every time she exhales. With nine spiral-bound note pads full of remarks on the very same trial I’m pretending to watch, she must be angling for the foreperson’s job, perhaps she’s interested in serving her civic duties —– me, I’m bored stiff.
The remainder of the clowns in the jury box are seemingly as lost as I am. When is this God-damned thing over? Oh, I see juror number four’s nails are finally finished. She’s been working on ‘em all day. At least one of us got something accomplished.
These feuding lawyers argue like an unhappy married couple. “Objection!” “Foundation!” Isn’t that the powdery crap the wife wastes my money on at the cosmetic counter? I wish she’d get a job for Christ’s sakes. That reminds me, I need to grab a six pack of brewski and some avocados when I blow out of here later.
Someone said something about a chiropractor in the lobby who was going to testify shortly. I wonder if I can line up a quick rotator-brake, my back is killing me. I need a new wallet, one without all of these picture sleeves. Who uses these things?
This is a capital murder trial that spans well-over four years in the making, with an equal amount of transcripts (if that’s even possible). I’ve honestly never seen so much paperwork in my life. They actually kill trees for that stuff and then pay someone to babysit it all? I pay taxes too, y’know.
Well…I’ve been sworn to a semblance of secrecy despite the constant media frenzy each day here in the courthouse. Look at these losers. They’re like a pack of wild blood-thirsty carnivores, sniffing their way through the stench of rumors and gossip.
Juror number eleven cautiously accepted a business card from one of them with a very subtle wink and nod. I’m pretty sure (but don’t quote me) that the judge clearly admonished us against similar behavior. Oh well, I’m not the one on trial here.
Even if I were handsomely compensated and could sign a waiver granting me absolute liberty to discuss intimate details, I’d never do so. I won’t lie though, it crossed my mind last Friday when the accused appeared in court with that tasteless tie and such a gorgeous blazer. Had to be Armani. There should be laws against that, no? Who would I contact to enact such legislation? “Fashion Felonies”. Hmm….
Not only that, but the facts (what I vaguely recall) are so insanely mundane that you’d eagerly rip this very page from wherever you’re reading it and attempt to cram it quite decisively into your eye socket.
Whew, holy mackerel…someone stepped in dog shit! It smells like a wild buffalo’s ass just landed in the jury box.
Don’t you dare judge me or misinterpret my social sentiments and responsibilities. I’m not whining about being in this terribly uncomfortable duct-taped chair, lost in what appears to be a pensive thought. Clearly, the previous occupant sat on an equally lengthy criminal matter but instead of spearing his or her eye out, decided to do the next best thing and take it out on the county budget by literally shredding the stuffing from beneath the fake leather seat cover. “Kudos to you good sir!”
Son of a bitch! I just kicked over my 32 ounce Dr. Pepper. It’s all over everything as I pretend not to notice. Guess I shouldn’t have worn flip-flops today. One can only hope that the sweet scent of carbonated prunes will somehow mask the putrid stench of crap eagerly wafting through the air.
What did he just say? Did I miss closing argument? Excuse me, would you please repeat that?
Down in the courthouse cafeteria (where they don’t sell chili cheese fries), I came across some colorfully-insightful complimentary literature. There’s a statement in this pamphlet which says and I quote, “the majority of those who sit of juries exit the overall experience with positive views of the justice system.” What a load of crap! That’s almost as bad as a slogan I read on one of the homicide detective’s binder covers that said something like, “when your day ends, our begins”. How terribly insensitive…funny, but insensitive.
I’m quite certain I could’ve easily lied my way out of this arbitrary waste of time but I’m an avid fan of CSI and when I saw the initial news coverage of the case, I have to admit, it was a great way to get some much-needed time off from work.
Truth be told, I actually fought to get on this jury and in doing so, it helped me realize something very powerful, something difficult to reconcile.
This country doesn’t have too many attorneys, we just don’t know how to select juries. Trials essentially ask random people to award damages or vote to convict, in volumes of generally unfathomable turd-slinging disputes.
I must’ve read the wrong brochure or perhaps I just missed the fine print somewhere, so would someone please explain to me why the court requires that I must be pro-death penalty to sit on a capital murder trial jury? What part of the program is that? Doesn’t the 6th Amendment guarantee an impartial jury of your peers? It almost seems that such an emphasis given to my personal beliefs automatically creates an atmosphere wherein amongst other potential jurors, guilt can only be presumed.
It is said that constitutionally, any juror whom has a doubt about his or her potential ability to impose a sentence of death, faces certain elimination from the respective jury pool.
Clearly irrelevant, the actual guilt phase of these death penalty trials should not hinge upon our independent views as jurors as it relates to capital punishment. Cases differ.
We’re told in today’s political climate, the growing global disdain for sentences of death slowly creeps upon nearly half of the entire world’s population. Rather than presenting a consistent and reliably cross-section of society (a righteous peer group), jurors are selected because of their inherent willingness to impose a death sentence. Statistically, juries of this breed will contain far-fewer representatives of certain religious beliefs, fewer women, and a majority of those whom will trust in the evidence put forth by the state, blind to the frequent errors, high stakes, blatant inequities, and the nearly incomprehensible complexities associated with the application of death as a modern-day punishment.
In many respects herein, even long after I’ve illuminated this posture, in my eyes… the verdict generally (not always) ends up being determined by the following issues, none of which has a damn thing to do with the facts of the case or what even happened in ‘reality’.
There will forever be those who vote solely on the confidence of their respective co-jurors. The disturbing net effect however of all of this, stems primarily on the ‘followers’.
In earnest, I believe that the most critical component in any trial, even more important than the actual merits of the case, remains the likeability of the attorneys. Neither side ever presents any information that couldn’t be deemed “open for total interpretation”, completely and consciously biased in every stretch of the imagination. The only thing in my trial experience that weighs heavily in veracity or influence is how affably the questionably-slanted data is delivered and by whom. Who can sell me the bill of goods. That’s it — that’s all!
Every folly has its kernel of truth, every crime a virtuous objective at its heart. For the essence of man is unadulterated in the process from motive to deed, so that a lofty ideal is corrupted to a lowly end.
In the upper courts of late, numerous cases abound which question pharmaceutical giants’ ethics behind deliberately leaving various drugs on shelves despite proven claims of damages done to patients whom are administered said by physicians. Many claims against these drug and product manufacturers may indeed be legitimate but undeniably, an equal amount (perhaps more), are not. They will probably all win or lose at a fairly consistent rate in the courts, primarily because for example, they all share one tremendous factor in common.
These suits will invariable and ultimately be decided upon by groups of similarly uptight, lazy, anal-retentive, unmotivated Dr. Pepper spilling idiots whom don’t know a God damned thing about pharmaceutical, their doses, or potential side effects.
Jurors from a local courthouse’ jury pool aren’t remotely qualified to sit on those kinds of juries, much like I’m totally ill-equipped to have sat on this one.
What’s even more ridiculous is the fact that being a totally unqualified person is what makes me abundantly qualified in the eyes of the trier-of-fact. By being 110% ignorant about the subject or the laws in place which purportedly govern them, I’m seemingly he right guy for the job; the one deemed eligible to decide legal ramifications. I can’t even remember where I parked my truck or what I had for breakfast. Oddly enough, yet abundantly clear, remains the fact that had I possessed any pragmatic or practical knowledge about the subject matter I would’ve been immediately eliminated from service.
Commonly assumed is that an objective individual has no opinion about anything. Let me define “objective”. Objective means that you comprehend one’s own personal biases and barriers, capable of compensating through intellectually separating one’s self from a pre-existing notion, belief, or feeling. It isn’t something you are —– it’s something you do.
Our jury system has a selection process in this country which needs a serious “twice-over”. The courts assume that the best people available to decide modern criminal and civil problems are ill-informed folks whom an educated pair of over-informed lawyers is diligently and openly trying to confuse. Is this justice?
That’s a huge slap in the face to those whom are ultimately executed and later found to be innocent. Let me tell you something here and now —– the numbers are quite confounding.
Here’s a rather novel concept…why not employ the efforts of professional juries in this country? An otherwise complicated system to enact but imagine the abundance of clarity and effectiveness! And according to the proverbial laws of the land, it would fall comfortably within the realm of constitutional. Y’see, Article III section 2 of our nifty constitution states that all criminal trials must be heard by a jury and, the 6th Amendment requires said jury to be IMPARTIAL, not all willing to impose death.
There is however no particular language in either doctrine, which demands that we select citizens at “random” and have them decide complicated criminal matters they can barely understand, especially when virtually every step of the arduous process is designed by the very fabric of attorney lingo and legal jargon, to make the case factors terribly unclear to the average juror.
My potential for doubt as it relates to the imposition of a death sentence, a posture which would currently eliminate me from a jury pool, is far from “impartial”. Doesn’t the 6th Amendment apply here? How can the voir dire examinations in which the prosecutors and defense attorneys engage prolonged questioning upon potential jurors, comfortably and legally fall beneath the equal protection of the 6th Amendment, if those whose morals or religious scruples prohibit an imposition of death, keep them from serving on an “impartial” jury? Seemingly incomprehensible, huh?
Truth be told, I’m not remotely expecting the legal system as a whole (or even in part), to reinvent itself or make similar concessions but, I do continue to see myself as a genuine advocate for meaningful resolve. Enough is enough!
Yes I may be lost in translation, wondering about teeth-whitening, interest rates, terrorist hijackers and even chili cheese fries but I cannot imagine being the person who has come upon this very revelation on my own —– surely, there must be others. Is that possible?
Wouldn’t we be better served as a community by specific classes of “professional juries”, whose sole job is to objectively weight and consider court cases that they themselves are formally educated about? How is that not obvious to the masses?
It would seem to be a fascinating and ideal training ground for those who aspire to challenge their lives in careers like those found in courtrooms everywhere. Wouldn’t prosecutors be far-less willing to pursue suits and criminal cases (wasting billions of tax dollars annually), if they know inherently that their case factors (or lack of them) would be less-likely swayed by misdirection or emotion? Shouldn’t our most critical components of the nation’s trial courts not be subject to random selection?
With every moral fiber of my being, one thing remains abundantly clear today, how it is, ain’t quite the way it really seems. Trust and believe that.
Michael Flinner, a middle-aged Caucasian father of one and former general contractor from San Diego, California, resides on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison, for a crime many know he did not commit. He is a perfect example of how the 6th Amendment continues to fail good people in so many ways.
This very same Amendment provides a guaranteed right to confront and cross-examine one’s accuser. Mr. Flinner’s accuser (the lone gunman) sat silent in a joint trial with two separate juries, ours on one side and his on the other. The law provides the protection of confrontation so that one can flush out the truth in any number of allegations. See the 6th Amendment.
The trial judge in this case however, permitted the homicide detectives to testify on behalf of Mr. Flinner’s accuser. This is a direct violation of due process and a monumental statutory case handed down by the United States Supreme Court in March of 2004, cited as Crawford V. Washington, only days before Flinner was sentence to death.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Homicide detective Rick Scully, was awarded a national commendation of “Homicide Detective of the Year” for his involvement in the investigation and sending Mr. Flinner to California’s death row, even after the prosecutor himself proved to both juries that Mr. Flinner and his son were some twenty miles away from the scene of the crime at and during the commission of said, and that in no way were responsible for the shooting when it occurred. Professional jury? I know not.
It was later discovered that the prosecution obstructed justice by committing a barrage of felonies which fall beneath Title 18 in a variety of subsections, the least of which provides for actual felony prosecution of their acts. See Title 18: 1503-1512.
Only God and Mr. Flinner’s alleged co-conspirator themselves know what happened on the fateful summer afternoon in 2000 when Tamra Keck, Michael’s love interest and bride-to-be, surrendered her last living breath in vain to a single cowardly gunshot.
Ironically, the same prosecutors would deliberately fail to inform both juries that the now-convicted gunman had actually solicited his then county jail cellmate, to go to Mexico and retrieve the murder weapon from his mother’s care. That’s not even the half of it, people. While soliciting the jail cellmate, Tamra’s killer took the time to draw a map which led to Flinner’s property. Both the map and the cellmate’s testimony was admitted before Flinner’s accuser’s jury, but not ours. Ask yourself the obvious question; Why wouldn’t the prosecutors want to put forth evidence that would vindicate Flinner? If Flinner was remotely culpable for hiring this accuser to kill Tamra Keck, why would he want to plant the murder weapon on Flinner? This very evidence was left out because earlier on in the trial it was discovered that Flinner’s father had in fact found an eyeglass case on his property which contained bullets, bullets with names inscribed upon them. One fired casing had Tamra’s name on it, while another unfired round with Michael’s was also enclosed. It should come as no surprise that the map in question led to the same exact place where the bullets were found.
If we as a civilized society however, should continue to permit our justice system such unabated leverage and ability to “chisel away” at the very laws which govern this great nation with no checks and balances, there will undeniably be men and women of every nationality, creed, race and religion, robbed of their rights and sent off to concrete ghost-towns, condemned to die, much like Michael Flinner —– a kind, generous soul, whose compassion remains a weakness his captors will not soon embrace.
Mr. Flinner’s jury managed to struggle but find him culpable for a crime he would never have been charged with much less tried for but for the trial judges’ callous deliberate errors in allowing hearsay testimony to convict, knowing clearly that it violated statutory law and the United States Supreme Court’s ruling less than three weeks earlier on this very subject matter. This is no doubt reminiscent of judicial misconduct and a flagrant abuse of power.
On his way into retirement (or so it was said), the trial judge sought to get some mileage out of Mr. Flinner in lieu of doing the right thing and retrying the case and putting on all of the evidence.
Most notable and far-difficult to comprehend is how the shooter ended up with a life sentence and as previously mentioned, Mr. Flinner whom was nowhere near the crime scene, received a sentence of death.
Seriously people, what’s wrong with this picture? Only years after sending Mr. Flinner to this death, do some of us realized just how wrong we were and further, how the court failed each of us as jurors.
In an odd yet compelling way, I urge you to help Michael however your heart should lead. He truly deserves a new trial with an impartial jury. Moreover, one by constitutional standards.
Take a moment to visit his online venue where he’s eliciting support to aide in his survival, subsistence, and struggle associated with being entirely out of his element, defeated, spiritually blind, and emotionally numb.
El Cajon, Ca.
You can locate and correspond with Michael at the following:
San Quentin, California