It’s been a while since I last wrote anything, I’ve been busy and life has been; erm, normal.
Or what passes for normal these days anyway.
I had a brief commute to India that lasted for just two days and then came back with a stomach bug that kept me occupied for just over a week…
The India trip was in support of a sales bid and I had a bizarre coincidence while I was there that left me genuinely surprised.
I was sitting with the prospective client’s CIO at the bar in a hotel in Delhi and was explaining that I wouldnt be able to make the UK visits scheduled for 1st week in September as I was on jury service.
Then my personal phone rang with a +36 country code.
Unusually for me, I answered it (it costs money to even receive a call in India thanks to o2) and found that it was the Jury service asking if I could bring my jury service forward.
I agreed and things start from here..
Even though a few months have passed since all this happened, it’s still subjudice and so all names and locations are untrue.
Lenny and Dawn had a chequered history, Lenny was raised offshore in one of those caribbean places and took to drugs early in his life. He’s genuinely thick and was too stupid to get above a one star job in McDonalds.
Dawn had been married, but took up with Lenny a number of years ago, they had some issues and Lenny went to prison for offences against her. For some reason, he pleaded guilty to crimes that had no witnesses and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
When he came out of prison, Dawn contacted him again.
Yes I know.
They took up again together, and despite him being a jobless addict with mental health issues, Dawn allowed him to replace her as the main tenant on her accommodation. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why -the taxpayer now funded their joint lifestyle, even though Dawn supposedly had a high flying job.
While Lenny was away on another short stint in prison a few years ago, Dawn went back to ‘her’ carribean island and made a few friends.
For reasons that escape everybody, she kept the pictures of her male friends on her camera for a few years despite Lenny being paranoid due to the crack and meth he was smoking.
Lenny caught her in a lie and they had a row, there were no witnesses at all.
Dawn called the police and Lenny being a black drug addict with a record; was arrested and banned as part of the bail arrangements from the house that his benefits were paying for.
Dawn – for reasons unknown and in terror for her life don’t forget; went to the police station and left cash and clothes for Lenny.
When bailed, he was shipped to another force who wanted to talk to him. He spent a day in their cells but was not charged.
This all occurred on a cold and wet few days in January.
Lenny, being a moron, went back to their house and broke in through the back door. Things went wrong and Dawn and her friend Sharon were stabbed.
The stabbing was a fact and Lenny was eventually arrested and charged with GBH and Attempted Murder.
And so the trial began.
For two counts of Attempted Murder.
CPS began the case by presenting a lurid set of facts that showed Lenny to be a cold and calculating criminal mastermind who planned and executed a chilling plot to murder Dawn in their home in Glasgow after travelling from Durham with murder in mind.
The carefully selected weapon of choice was shown to the Jury and a breadknife that looked too cheap for a poundshop was shown in all its bent and pathetic glory.
Dawn and Sharon’s wounds were shown to us on a completely useless rendered graphic and Sharon’s wounds were shown to be non-penetrating.
A second weapon of opportunity was used on Dawn and she suffered one deep, potentially life threatening wound.
This all took a few hours to present and things initially looked like it’d be a short trial.
We were then treated to two hours of video testimony from Dawn.
The first was from her hospital bed, the second a few weeks later.
There were some big discrepancies in the two stories, with the second version being more dramatic than the first and some key facts changed.
Dawn was then put on the stand.
Despite the fact that she’d just watched her own videos, the story grew even more dramatic and lurid, punctuated by tears and sobbing. To be fair, she had been stabbed and a trial is an ordeal no matter what side you’re on.
CPS gently questioned her.
Did she know that Lenny was on drugs ? Yes, but he didn’t do it at home. She would NEVER let him do drugs in front of her.
Did she ever give Lenny money for drugs? No. She was a GOOD woman
Did she ever take drugs herself? NO. She was a GOOD hard working woman with a high flying career.
Did she recognise the knife? She had no recollection of it. Where are you going with all these questions sir? Am I on trial here?
And so it went.
Defence was very gentle with questioning, but.
Did she ever leave Lenny Money for drugs in a jar. No, that money was for food if he needed it.
Did she ever go with Lenny to buy drugs? No. Never.
Why did you lose your job a few weeks before the incident? Was it drug related? NO. I started my own business via Facebook
Where were you the day before the initial assault? Erm, I don’t remember?
Were you with Lenny buying drugs in Newcastle? NO, but I don’t know where I was.
Have you ever bought and smoked skunk? Er. Yes. On occasion.
So you have seen Lenny do drugs in your house? Just Skunk.
And so on.
Sharon’s video testimony was shown and in a bizarre mixup the camera ran a bit too early and showed her sitting on the floor at ease before hurriedly refitting a soft neck brace and hunching over before she spoke.
She then took the stand.
Despite some random statements early on about how Lenny had kicked Dawn in the initial assault (something that Dawn didn’t allege), she admitted that she’d seen nothing and only heard the tail end of the row when Dawn left the house.
She stated that Lenny was normally a lovely man and that on the night of the assault, he was “a crazed animal” and that she didn’t think that he consciously knew what he was doing.
She was a balanced and fairly believable witness, although her evidence at times contadicted Dawn’s.
Let’s talk about the jury for a second.
A couple of retired women who were initially terrified that the scary black man would somehow ‘get them’ afterwards.
Three older blokes who saw exactly what they wanted to see and may as well have written ‘guilty’ down on day one and then pissed off home.
One silly old git who brought the fucking newspaper coverage of the trial in.
A couple of people who didn’t use their notebooks at all..
A pain in the arse bloke who went to court every day in a suit, just because. And who kept asking questions via the usher, at one point causing a half day delay. (me)
The questions came about because Lenny took the stand. He didn’t need to. Whatever he said could only back up the facts, he DID stab both women.
We’d already had testimony from two cops who somehow wrote the same words that Lenny spoke at certain times in their notebooks, despite them admitting that they weren’t always together and that Cop 2 wrote his notes six hours later.
What they agreed on was that Lenny tried to kill himself four times after the event that night (the fucking idiot)
1 – hanging – the branch broke
2 – Cutting his own throat, too blunt an edge
3 – setting fire to the car, in pouring rain
4- overdose, this one nearly worked, his heart stopped and he was hospitalised when cops 1 and 2 wrote their uncannily similar statements.
And so my question. Lenny had stated that while he was in the neigbouring force’s custody, he begged to be sectioned and said that he was suicidal.
I asked that we see the interview notes.
Four hours later we listened to excerpts from the custody notes.
Yes he said it.
And was seen by a mental health professional who recommended that he see a doctor ASAP.
Notes after he was released said that he’d been reinterviewed and was OK.
Despite Lenny being a fucking idiot with a drug addled brain, the CPS prosecutor couldn’t break him at all and a few people (me included) were trying not to laugh.
Lenny admitted to the assaults and knew that whatever happened he was in deep trouble.
He did say that the knife was his / Dawn’s and that he must have picked it up in the house. The CPS tried hard to prove that he’d carried it there, but if there was CCTV, etc. they didn’t want to reference it.
I wrote in my notes something like this:
“don’t understand why GBH was dropped, no problem with that, but The Crown can’t prove intent here at all”
Lenny’s defence was of drug-comedown paranoia, I looked up the symptoms, it was a reasonable thing to be looking at – he had a history of mental health issues, 20 years of hard drug use and previous suicide attempts.
The next day, we were adjourned for four hours again and four new charges were introduced.
Two of GBH with intent
Two of GBH
Lenny duly pleaded guilty to two counts of GBH and I hoped that we could all go home.
We now had to deliberate on the four higher charges.
The judge spent an hour in summing up and may as well have shown us a picture of Lenny in a noose while mouthing the words ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’.
For some reason, I was made foreman..
We spent four hours in complete deadlock and I wrote to the Judge asking clarification (as some of my fellow jurors had evidently been in another court) – was it the Crown’s case that Lenny went to Glasgow with the intention to commit murder?
‘Yes’ – said the Judge, ‘however, don’t forget my guidance that ‘intent’ can last a millisecond and if you believe that for even a split second that Mr Rastus intended to commit murder then you must find him guilty.’
An hour later I wrote to the judge saying that we were never even going to get to a majority verdict and a mistrial was declared.
It turned out that the case in the court next door was also attempted murder and also a mistrial .
I spoke to a juror on that jury, she said that it was ‘a fucking fiasco’ and that the jury was 10 / 2 not guilty but the judge wouldn’t accept a 10/2 majority.
This all sounds really negative and in some ways it is.
The CPS in Lenny’s case was (in my view) vindictive and lazy. They saw a thick, black drug addict with a record and thought it was a slam dunk.
The jury system – though flawed and inevitably made up of a proportion of dimwits and loons, is the best we have and it’s given me a bit of hope that even when a judge is nakedly biased, people will do the right thing according to the facts and their conscience. (mostly)
I hope that Lenny is allowed to do whatever prison time the GBH charges would give him (up to 20 years I think) and that the CPS save us all the money and hassle of another botched trial.
I know this though.
NEVER EVER PLEAD GUILTY. EVER.