Thursday, April 21, 2005

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

Here's a story from a public defender up north sent to a listserv for pd's. He's given me permission to post it.

I'm going to be 46 years old this July. Got my license on July 5, 1984.

About a year ago, I was assigned to one Tamika Lewis, who was charged with two counts of forgery, one count of bank fraud, and one count of theft. For those unfamiliar, that's 2-8 years times three, and the theft is 6 months to 3 years.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

FOUR eyewitnesses said that she did it. Three of them were young black males. Two of them, Brandon and John, had been friends for six years. One of those two, John, claimed he knew Tamika for several years. John was a friend of the third young black male, JB. All were from Gary.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

The one that REALLY threw me was the white, Lithuanian kid from Lake Station, George. He didn't know the black guys. They said they didn't know him. All four picked her photo when shown to them by 'ace' Merrillville Detective Westmoreland.


Long story . . . short . . . Brandon's parents went to Florida for a week. He called John to come stay at his house and party 'for a while.' John asked to bring 'Tamika' along. When Brandon's parents returned, jewelry was missing, and several checks were taken, forged, and cashed. Two of the guys who cashed them were John's friend JB, and the Lithuanian guy from Lake Station. They picked her photo and said Tamika put their names on the checks, they cashed them, and Tamika let them keep 20 bucks.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

I said, 'Tamika . . . I can understand someone LOOKING like you . . . but to LOOK like you and have the NAME, Tamika Lewis, that . . . is almost too incredible.'

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

The State offered to dismiss the three C felonies and let her plead to the D theft, agreed probation. Hell, since all she had was a prior battery from 2000, they said that if she paid the $1,200.00 in restitution, they'd give her misdemeanor treatment.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

I warned her . . . she wouldn't get too many black jurors. When the venire came in, 2 of 33 were black.

Young black male was in the box. Kept him. Struck 8 of the first 14 [don't ask]. Next black juror comes in . .. middle age female. Almost immediately raises her hand and says that she believes ANYONE charged with a crime is guilty. Judge asks us to approach. Unilaterally suggest she be removed for cause. I refuse. I end up using her to educate the others. She had three kids ... I used them as an example of your own children lying ... of what you'd do if they were wrongly accused ... of how she didn't know where they were for large gaps of time 18 months before [when the charged crimes were committed].

So we get a jury. I tell my client . . . that while I tried to load it up with women . . . and I think we were fortunate . . . that if those four come in and say that they're SURE she was 'Tamika,' she's cooked.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

So . . . we come in Wednesday morning. And right off the bat, prosecutor challenges the . . . TA DA . . . young black male juror . . . saying they did a criminal records search on ALL the jurors and found that he had been charged with check deception. When asked on Monday if anyone had been charged or convicted with a crime, he didn't raise his hand. He gets called into court to stand RIGHT before the bench . . . he said that it had been dismissed, so he didn't think it counted. Judge says, on the record, that he finds that the juror perjured himself, and that he was dismissing him from the jury.

I object, argue that there is no showing of any intentional deception, complain about how the State can check criminal records but we can't, claim that my client isn't getting a jury of her peers . . . all falling on predictably deaf ears.

We take a break. My client goes RUNNING out of the courtroom in tears, wailing about why Jesus is letting her be persecuted. Her stiletto heels made quite the rat-tat-tat as she ran, using baby steps, down the linoleum flooring . . .

About this time, it's getting a little over the top for me. But . . . hey, she's the client, right? I've advised her of my expectations . . . I've explained to her the plea offer . . . I've given her my opinion of where this is probably going to go . . . and she's made her decision. It's her call, right?

So I suggest to her, one more time . . . that I might be able to get her the same deal.

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

So we do our openings. And we break for lunch.

I'm back WAY early. Deputy prosecutor comes in. Approaches me. Says 'we have a problem.'

I'm like thinking, 'what juror did what now . . .?'

She continues . . . 'Brandon and John saw her . . . and . . . SHE ISN'T THE GIRL THAT DID IT.'


'SHE ISN'T THE GIRL THAT DID IT. They're positive.'

I thought back . . .

She told me . . . she didn't do it.

She was right.


Anonymous said...

my name is tamica lewis i live all the way up orth in yellowknife NT canada and her name is prattically the same witch is very strange!

Anonymous said...

well my name is Tamika Shanae Lewis and i live in AK...i was just googling myself...but thats this a real story?

Michael Ausbrook said...

It's a real story.