This article is one of a series of editorial articles that express personal
opinions and views. They are written with no pretensions to be error free. I
will gladly correct substantial errors of fact. My opinions can change,
depending upon my awareness and understanding of changes in factual
information. It is my intent to remain focused on specific public issues,
regarding the personalities involved. For all I know, all the characters are
saints, concerning their private lives and other public business...
Changes may be requested by e-mailing the details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Perceptions From the Jury Selection Process For a Trial of Thomas Richardson for the Alleged Murder of His Wife, Juanita During a jury selection process of 02/27/08 and 02/28/08, at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse, for the trial of Thomas (Tom) Richardson, for alleged murder, I was a rejected member of the potential jury pool from which the jury for the pending trial was chosen. I chose to witness the entire jury selection process, except for a few minutes that I nodded off, after lunch, on 02/28/08. Before jury selection, the only knowledge I had of the incident, for which Thomas Richardson is charged with murder, was a couple of brief news statements from WNMU radio, shortly after the time of the incident. Beyond mild curiosity, at the time, I had no interest beyond the outcome of a likely future trial that would be reported, eventually. My primary interest in the jury selection process were the legal concepts and procedures, regarding what I have come to learn, as an "Ol' Geezer", is little more than my irrational belief, for most of my life, in the de facto subjective practices of the religion of Juris Prudence. I have come to learn that a claimed and generally objective process of law enforcement and adjudication, that I was lead to believe existed, for most of my life, is, too often, a competition of little more than lies of a professional confidence game by one advocate vs. the reality represented by another, refereed by the court. From the information given the jury, and the questions asked, by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys, I understood or inferred the following, correctly or incorrectly. Please note that what I express, here, are 100% my perceptions and inferences, as a potential juror, during a "voir dire" process. My personal views, right or wrong, concern unverified information provided by others with professional credentials, history, and specific intents unknown to me, beyond whatever I understood, inferred, or imagined during the jury selection process, closed to the public: Even though lip service was paid by the presiding judge, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney, to the premise that the jurors were to base their decision upon the evidence, and not upon statements made by the respective attorneys, it was obvious, to me, that both the prosecution and defense were picking jury members that were most likely to accept their respective various arguments, concerning the nature of, value, validity, context, and meaning of actual evidence and circumstances, referred to, specifically, or abstractly. Both prosecution and defense sought a likely jury foreperson, acceptable to both the prosecution and defense, with the social and professional skills to influence and/or coordinate jury considerations. Both prosecution and defense sought a malleable jury that would, most likely, be influenced to accept the respective perceptions of the prosecution or defense advocates. Both prosecution and defense sought jury members with a limited ability to understand abstractions - sufficient to understand the legal advocate's abstract concepts, but not enough to think "out of the box" of the abstraction selected by the advocate. (To think out of the box, is to consider theories that are contrary to the respective goals of the defense or prosecution strategy.) Both prosecution and defense sought sociable jurors - those that "work well with others" to determine a verdict which all jury members could agree upon. Less than "all" means a "hung jury", with no conviction or acquittal. Both prosecution and defense sought a jury that would be, most likely, sympathetic to whatever intended defense or prosecution theories and arguments they intended to present that jury, during the trial. Both prosecution and defense chose to ignore the public address system microphones, perhaps to ensure that many of the waiting potential jurors filling the court room could not hear all the prior questioning, prompting, and instructions. Subsequently, both the prosecution and defense attorneys repeated their questions, prompting, and instructions, for over 12 1/2 hours, during almost two full of days of the jury selection process, in an attempt to ensure that the potential jurors remembered the information and concepts that the prosecution and defense attorneys wanted them to remember, and consider during the trial. Both prosecution and defense sought a jury to "Think as we wish", sufficiently compliant to be lead to the pretrial understandings and conclusions covered during the jury selection process. Defense I understood the defense's repetitive questions and prompting, regarding "hypothetical" allegations, circumstances, evidence, context, and theories, concerning the defendant's alleged murder of his wife, to mean the following: This is a murder case. The defense alleges the wife's death is an accident. The site of the death is a treacherous cliff-side wilderness, conducive to serious accidents. Thomas Richardson's closed head trauma effected his personality Defendant's emotional expression has been impaired by trauma Thomas Richardson lacked the ability to express grief in a "normal" manner Defendant's wife's knowledge of her possible grave illness death was reason for completing a will Defendant's wife may have committed suicide to conclude her perception of an unacceptable and irresolvable cancer based health problem Defendant's wife suffered from serious symptoms of depression Thomas Richardson committed no act of murder, and never considered the consequences of a possible divorce as a motive for murder. Misinterpretation of the defendant's truck driver jargon is no indication of the intent or commission of murder. Bickering is not a precursor for murder, or, necessarily, an indicator of a failed marriage Extended family and associates' testimony about perceived strained marriage problems is little more than an expression of third party personal opinion, colored by personal bias. Seeking, considering, and noting testimony for one side of an alleged crime, primarily, is an expression of self-serving bias that tends to corrupt the investigative process. "Modern" criminal procedure, and the "old fashioned way", includes using and preserving all documented investigative information, of all facets of an investigation of a serious crime. "Modern" criminal procedures include the use of common, cheap, and readily available modern tools to document, and record interviews and interrogations. "Modern criminal procedures" include the use of cameras and tape measures to properly document the physical environment of an alleged crime site. An unrecorded extensive interview or interrogation of an alleged murder suspect is unnecessary and unprofessional. It precludes readily available direct evidence that may, or may not, support the circumstantial evidence from investigative procedures by those that may, or may not, be proficient, candid, perfect, and dedicated professionals of unassailable integrity. The destruction of notes taken during an extensive unrecorded interview/interrogation, deprives the defense of any means to refute, with direct evidence, the content of the completed report, which is part of prosecution evidence. There are questionable motives to destroy original notes that form the basis of an alleged murder investigation report. The testimony of typical "snitches" is little more than hear-say testimony, of questionable source and value, likely to be colored by motive. The use of a jailhouse snitch, carrying a recording device, eliciting testimony from the defendant, is a questionable practise leading to questionable testimony-evidence. Circumstantial hear-say testimony, from anyone, is as likely to be false, as not. Seeking and using negative hear-say testimony, about the defendant, primarily from those who view the defendant in a negative manner, corrupts the investigative process with obvious bias. Unreliable circumstantial evidence, alone, is the basis of the prosecutor's case, and such evidence to be shown will not support a guilty verdict, beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecution: I understood the prosecution's repetitive questions and prompting, regarding "hypothetical" allegations, circumstances, evidence, context, and theories, concerning the defendant's alleged murder of his wife, to mean the following: This is a domestic violence case. Thomas Richardson systematically undermined his spouse's self-esteem. The alleged crime was subsequent to spouse abuse. The defendant's stress generated behavior falls outside the range of "normal", while waiting to know if his spouse would survive a serious health problem. There is lots of testimony, much of it nasty, concerning the marriage problems of the defendant and his wife. Thomas Richardson chose murder as an alternative to divorce. The wife's alleged murder is, to a great degree, a consequence of a failed marriage. The motive for murder was an attempt to escape the potential costs and consequences of a divorce, and to gain from the wife's estate. Bickering between the defendant and his wife is a likely precursor to the wife's alleged murder. Thomas Richardson behaved in an "abnormal" manner, indicating that he was broken, in some fashion. Circumstantial evidence is not inferior to direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence, without direct evidence, is sufficient to reach a guilty verdict. Circumstantial hear-say evidence, from many people, equals likely guilt. It is irrelevant to the case and trial that fundamental investigative documenting notes, of an open and active case, were destroyed before trial. Beware the defense's legal theories concerning unanswered questions that have nothing to do with the facts and circumstances required to reach a guilty verdict. Those "Red herrings" will be dangled by the defense to misdirect the jury from the goal of the prosecution's evidence and arguments. It is appropriate, in the 21st Century, to "solve" an alleged capital crime, in the "old fashioned way", with little more than circumstantial evidence. It is appropriate to try the defendant, in the "old fashioned way", for an alleged capital crime, based upon little more than circumstantial evidence. It is appropriate to ask a jury to reach a verdict, in the "old fashioned way", for an alleged capital crime, based upon little more than circumstantial evidence. The public perception of the first 30 minutes of the World Trade Center tragedy of 09-11-01 showed the validity and strength of circumstantial evidence. The circumstantial evidence to be shown, is, in its own context, similar to that of the 911 incident, and is all that is needed to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of murder. It will be interesting to see how close my perceptions of "hypothetical" circumstances, evidence,and theories, are to that which will be presented. There was a significant degree of concern, expressed by both sides, regarding perceived notions acquired by the potential jurors, prior to the trial process. I can only cry when I consider that I sat through a jury selection process in which two advocates, representing diametrically opposed views of the case, spent 12 1/2 hours trying to convince me of the relevance of certain allegations, facts, theories, and events, prior to the defendant's trial. The defendant is either a murderer, or he is not. That being so, one advocate was representing a confidence game, as a trial authority figure, before the trial, with the sole purpose of convincing potential jurors of that which is false, by presenting, during voir dire, false representations of circumstances, evidence, and theories. What I witnessed did nothing to restore my steadily deteriorating view of law enforcement and adjudication. P.S. I was told by a valued acquaintance, who read a draft of this article, that I had tried Thomas Richardson, already. I responded that I had not tried him, but if my perception of events was essentially correct, the attorneys had a great practice trial using "hypothetical" illustrative allegations, circumstances, evidence, context, and theories.04/14/08
The following is the entire closing arguments of today's Thomas Richardson trial proceedings. After the defense finished, the prosecution asked the presiding judge for more time, tomorrow morning...
Click to listen to 50MB mp3 file of approximately 6 hours of final arguments on 04/14/08, or download
For me, it is best played with Windows Media Player with all the graphic equalizer individual controls set to minimum, except for 250, 500, 1K, 2K and 4K set to mid-position. These recordings are optimized from my less-than-desirable personal recordings, as a "spectator", some thirty feet from the attorneys' lectern, from which the attorneys addressed the jury and NBC's cameras, away from the public spectators, within the shabby acoustic environment of the Schoolcraft County Courthouse Circuit Court Room, in which I noticed no one using any of many available public address microphones during the times I attended.
My recordings, done on a sub-poverty income, are what numerous investigative agencies chose not to do, during the Thomas Richardson interview/interrogation. As their funding, and technical and intellectual resources are virtually limitless, compared to mine, I can only conclude that it was perceived to be in the best interests of "professional" law enforcement personnel to investigate the Richardson death incident in a manner that assumed the suspect's guilt, and ensured the likelihood of his "deserved punishment".
With no recording, there was no direct evidence that the defense could use to refute the contents of whatever investigative report(s)resulted from the interview/interrogation, or the meaning that the prosecution chose to ascribe to the contents of those "manufactured" circumstantial evidence reports. Each person perceives the world differently from another, and that includes what they hear. With no recordings, the interrogators' understandings, interpretations, and memories of transitory words spoken by a suspect are used to prosecute the defendant, with no chance of the defense to access an unbiased record of what was actually said by the suspect.
The typical fourth grade classroom exercise in rumor creation should have been sufficient lesson to motivate mandatory interrogation recordings, since the advent of the wire recorder. Economical digital recorders, and recorded data transfer and storage technology, make the absence of an interrogation recording nothing more than gross incompetence, or a deliberate attempt to "hang" a suspect with the "mind reading" interpretations of others, as incorporated in their biased view of the world as stated in written reports.
Pursuing an investigation, with the investigation guided by the preconceived assumption of guilt of the person investigated, makes it as difficult and as expensive as possible for an innocent suspect to defend themselves against those with the biased power of the state, paid to wield the power to judge-and-abuse-at-will, with virtual impunity.
Because of perjury and confabulation by witnesses, and personal agenda driven decisions made by unethical or incompetent law enforcement, investigative and adjudication professionals, after a trial is over, there is, too often, no way to know if a suspect is guilty, or not.
Click to listen to 10MB mp3 file of 1hr 18min of prosecution rebuttal, plus jury instructions of 04/15/08, or download
Thomas Richardson trial closing arguments and jury instructions 041508 - 10MB mp3 zipped file
During my "voir dire" experience, and subsequent trial procedures, documented above, I granted Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman the courtesy of considering the possibility that her comparative analogy of "911" circumstantial evidence applied to the Richardson case. Now that the trial is over, I consider her analogy as little more than an overt attempt, by a law enforcement authority figure, to demonize Thomas Richardson in the minds of ignorant jurors.
Regardless of Thomas Richardson's degree of guilt, the alleged circumstantial evidence of his alleged crime was in no way equivalent to that of the 09/11/01 World Trade Center towers disaster. I, along with millions of other folk, saw, on major television network news programs, the sequential collision of two aircraft with two buildings, witnessed by onlookers. The collisions camera footage was later corroborated by irrefutable circumstantial, direct, and scientific evidence.
Regarding Richardson's alleged crime, unlike the 911 event, there is no simple and irrefutable evidence that it ever took place. There are no witnesses to the alleged crime. There is no irrefutable scientific evidence that a crime occurred. There is no sum of circumstantial evidence that a crime occurred, beyond reasonable doubt.
The suggestion that the circumstantial evidence and hearsay of the Thomas Richardson trial, sworn or not, was in any way equivalent to that of "911", was little more than an overt prosecution ploy to poison the minds of the jurors, and influence a decision against the defendant by suggesting that he, and the circumstances of his alleged crime, had something in common with the work and resulting circumstantial evidence of those responsible for 911.
Regardless of Mr. Richardson's actual guilt, assuming that it exists, there is no doubt in my mind, why, in our "civilized society", a guilty verdict should be proved "beyond reasonable doubt"; including doubt raised by false prosecutorial associations between the circumstantial evidence of "911" and that offered at Richardson's trial.
I now understand, fully, why, during final arguments and the jury selection process, Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman smiled broadly as she stated to the jury why she likes circumstantial evidence so much. The individual pieces of circumstantial evidence and hearsay testimony might be assembled, like jigsaw puzzle pieces, into many fantastic combinations that have little connection with reality. Then the power and resources of the state can be used to convince jurors of the prosecution's interpretation of its completed puzzles of choice.
On an international scale, President Bush and his administration did, and still does, the same thing to convince the public regarding the "Iraq puzzle", as others did regarding the "Vietnam puzzle", Germany's historic "Jewish puzzle" and, of course, the "slavery and indigenous population puzzles" around the world. On a local scale, Schoolcraft County Prosecutor, Peter Hollenbeck, pursued prosecution of a totally fabricated "Lakeside Road puzzle", that I witnessed being created, documented elsewhere at this web site.
History is littered with the corpses of those victimized by circumstantial evidence, interpreted by subjective imaginations with a mission in mind. The validity of circumstantial evidence is no better than those who choose to interpret it, to satisfy their particular agenda; and government entities are notorious for using the collective resources of the state to overpower any legitimate defense by those without equivalent resources.
That Richardson's defense attorneys have the same opportunity as the prosecution to present their interpretation of the same circumstantial evidence and hearsay, as it applies to their theories and arguments, does little to ensure their defendant a "fair" trial. They are unknown "hired guns" for a flawed stranger run afoul of local law enforcement officials vs. local law enforcement, investigative and adjudication authority figure public servants, of "unassailable integrity", elected and hired by the local "public" to ensure local public safety, in that part of the country where the public everyone "knows" everything, about everyone else, either directly or indirectly.
The "scales of justice" were automatically tilted in favor of the prosecution. Had the trial taken place in Grand Rapids, before a jury of those that live in the "real world", unconnected with the too close personal, professional, political, social and religious lives of those in the backwater counties of Alger and Schoolcraft, I would be far less harsh.
I watched the televised video and audio of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center towers. I watched and listened to the second. At no time did I believe that Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman had similar reasons or evidence to prove that Richardson committed murder. The only "reasonable" conclusions that I could draw, from that part of the trial procedures I witnessed, is that thomas Richardson told several versions of what happened, a bunch of folk didn't like him, and he was likely as flawed an individual as most anyone else, including me, the jury members, and all those that testified against him.
Unlike televised 911 tragedy video and audio, I saw no irrefutable evidence that a crime was committed, and subsequent to Ms. Richardson's death I saw no completed puzzle of circumstantial evidence that showed, with any degree of certainty, that Tom Richardson caused the death of his wife. I understood the 911 irrefutable circumstantial evidence analogy to have one purpose; Prosecutor Bahrman chose to foster an emotional irrational verdict from the jury, instead of a well reasoned decision.
Needless to say, 12 other individuals may determine otherwise.
Today, 12 other individuals claimed unanimous understanding of Thomas Richardson's guilt of first degree murder, beyond a reasonable doubt.
For a peek at the process by which that "unanimous decision" was reached, read the following; and fear the process by which several jury members "make" one of the prosecution's hypotheses of first degree murder. From my reading of these, and several other online mainstream media articles, I understand that some jury members imagined and acted out a speculated prosecution "martial arts kick" scenario, and "convinced" other jury members of the validity of that particular imagined scenario; that the defendant kicked his wife over a cliff edge.
If this is what a jury has the responsibility to do, and if I was charged with a capital crime, I would prefer summary execution to a trial by my peers. In so many words, several Schoolcraft County jury members did what Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman failed to do; they convinced 5 doubting jurors of Richardson's hypothetical guilt. They didn't just consider the evidence and testimony presented them; several jurors manufactured enough "evidence" to convince 5 doubting jurors that Richardson was guilty of first degree murder, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Re-enactment swayed jurors toward verdict
Regarding that part of the trial that I witnessed, I appreciated the defense attorneys' efforts to make their case. Unlike the clangor during the prosecution's presentations, my "baloney" alarm sounded seldom.
The verdict is no surprise, to me. It is consistent with my understanding of Schoolcraft County residents' collective view of knowledge, human nature, ethics, reason and logic, as I have documented for years, elsewhere. That understanding includes a basic premise of human nature of why people lie or confabulate, that was so evident to me in the prosecution's presentation.
People employ deception because it works to influence the ignorant and intellectually lazy or challenged. Current knowledge about human nature should be taught everyone, from a very early age, along with the application of that knowledge, with logic and reasoning skills. There would be far fewer successful predators and ignorant victims in the world, if a lot more emphasis was placed upon educating everyone about those characteristics of human nature that separates "civilized" individuals from their simian ancestors, and human predators on both sides of the law. Needless to say, the "captains of power" in the associated arenas of politics, religion, military, and industry prefer the status quo of a malleable public, readily influenced, and subservient to their wills.
For what its worth, my best wishes to all those innocents hurt by all facets of the entire unfortunate affair.
The following was reported by WLUC-TV, at their web site:
"Bahrman says her biggest hurdle was convincing the jury that circumstantial evidence was as important, or more important, than direct evidence.
"It doesn't depend on the credibility of witnesses,” Bahrman said. “Circumstantial evidence doesn't lie, it's not mistaken, and it has no agenda.""
Attorneys speak out after Richardson verdict
"But," I say, "circumstantial evidence is the primary yarn woven into any and all justifications for all of history's atrocities. Most of the brutes of the world justify their brutality with their choice of, and interpretation of, circumstantial evidence and hearsay. People lie, are mistaken, and have agendas, and that subset of humanity that I label mission-driven-brutes, do not care about the level of damage they do to others to achieve their goals. The various written, video and audio records of the 2006 Duke University lacrosse team "rape" case are classic, well worth reviewing to understand how human nature, with a mission and circumstantial evidence, manifests itself in an intellectual environment, let alone the "backwoods" of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where ignorance and superstition abound.
I found this later today:
Jurors speak out about verdict
"The medical examiner testified the bruising came from a type of blunt force, or what they like to call a nightstick-type of injury by a linear object, either right before or at the time of death."
If this story is true, I can only conclude that the jury should substitute for agents of the Alger County Prosecutor, Sheriff Dept., Michigan State Police, and F.B.I.; all of whom failed to convince the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, with their professional 5-6 weeks of combined arguments, testimony and evidence, including Prosecutor Bahrman's closing arguments. It took several amateur jury sleuths less than two days, after improvising a "martial arts" investigative scene from a television "C.S.I." show, to create "breakthrough" thigh bruise and karate kick evidence deemed merely possible by prosecution professionals.
"...you do see something that almost looks like it could be the fore part of a sole of a shoe; the front part," is determined by several jury sleuths to be breakthrough evidence that convinces 5 other doubtful jurors of Richardson's guilt - beyond a reasonable doubt?
"Even though they felt it was a breakthrough, they again reconsidered all the other evidence and the more than six weeks of testimony. By putting everything together, they were able to make one final decision."
From my perspective, for a ton of public money, Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman, with the help of and local, state and federal investigative professionals, proved little more than an example of the old maxim that "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." They planted the seeds of justifiable suspicion into the fertile imaginations of jury members, based upon questionable circumstantial evidence and testimony, and the argumentative hearsay of public authority figures.
With the seeds of justifiable suspicion planted, fertilized with weeks of the prosecution's speculative arguments, the collective jury members nurtured those seeds into a harvested crop of ill-founded beliefs that included a "breakthrough" phantom kick and a mythical shoe sole bruise that were no part of any objective testimony or evidence, that I was aware of. Ultimately, contrary to the judge's directions to consider the trial evidence and testimony, alone, the jury concluded unanimously, that Thomas Richardson was guilty of first degree murder, beyond a reasonable doubt, for deliberately kicking his wife over a cliff edge, at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
I am hard pressed to see much difference between a good ol' fashioned Salem witch trial, and the trial of Thomas Richardson, except that life with "Bubba" and his pals might be considered worse than being burned at the stake. For those that still don't get it, I am not for or against Thomas Richardson and do not know, with any certainty, whether he is guilty to any degree, regarding the death of his wife, regardless of my conclusion that he lies, as most everyone else I know.
I am against "witch-hunt" trials and "witch hunt" investigative procedures, regardless of a judge's instructions to the jurors to consider trial testimony and evidence, alone. I decry public authority figures arguing, for weeks, exhorting and "brainwashing" a hand picked captive jury of no defendant's peers, seeking to "burn" the defendant. Beyond the expensive veneer of the theory of "due process", today, a trial is just as likely to have a similar effects, for similar reasons, as centuries ago.
When "the public" is educated to consider public authority figures as more believable, ethical, competent, skilled and intellectually "better" than themselves, and the advocates for an alleged criminal, then few members of the public have a civilized chance for "due process" that is contrary to the fantasized beliefs of "public servants", and like-minded authority figures. Once again, a heap of bodies testify to the historical relevance of my perspective.
A decent layman's article about the nature of lying, and school bullying, two related subjects of great interest, to me, may be found in the June 2005 edition of Scientific American Mind. For those that are not intellectually lazy or challenged, and really care about the nature of our species, beyond historical superstitious and supernatural mythology, there is available a great deal of readily accessible scientific, peer reviewed, research based, fact and hypotheses that provide a more rational explanation of the "unexplainable".
Here is a recent example of the consequences of sophistic investigative procedures, prosecution mission driven zeal, and a jury's acceptance of the consequential "evidence" and "testimony":
Dallas Man Exonerated After 27 Years in Prison.
A decent layman's consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of circumstantial and direct evidence may be found at:
and legal definitions may be found in any recent edition of Black's Law Dictionary.
For some claimed personal perspective from several jurors, posted to a forum at the WLUC-TV web site:
Regarding the WLUC-TV forum statement by juror "J B, manistique", "To say that this kicking demonstration swayed the whole jury would be inaccurate. The timeline did him in....There is no way he did all the things he said he did.", I do not remember, during the prosecution's final arguments, the timeline being emphasized by Prosecutor Bahrman as a clincher for her theories. I do not remember the defense final argument rebutting a detailed timeline scenario.
As a professional, perhaps Prosecutor Bahrman didn't understand the validity and importance of the details of her own timeline theory, and failed to emphasize it during the finale of the trial. Perhaps I didn't hear the prosecutor emphasize a detailed timeline scenario, and, perhaps, I did not hear the defense's rebuttal. Perhaps I do not remember her clinching timeline reasoning, or the defense's impotent rebuttal. Perhaps the jury understood the validity of that which she failed to comprehend. Perhaps, like the precursor to the jury's fabricated "breakthrough shoe sole bruise and phantom kick" evidence, the prosecution's seeds of justifiable suspicion were nurtured by the jury into a clinching "C.S.I."-like tv screenplay "timeline (that) did him in." evidence.
Perhaps I am not only "wacko", but deaf; or is my apparent confusion due to my inability to understand the courtroom dialog because, for all intents and purposes, no one was using a microphone except the court stenographer and the NBC cameras, adjacent to the jury box, to which the attorneys were speaking. Perhaps I am blind, also, and did not see, or read about Prosecutor Bahrman's compelling "timeline" evidence. Perhaps, Prosecutor Bahrman only hypothesized of a compelling timeline, and with that suggestion the jury created its own, within the jury room, secure from defense scrutiny and rebuttal.
Like another juror's statement about the "breakthrough" phantom kick and shoe sole bruise "evidence", that was little more than a jury's imaginative hypothesis, so, from my perspective, was the "The timeline (that) did him in." The jury's efforts to fabricate the evidentiary basis for a murder or manslaughter verdict were as weak as the contrived theories concerning the circumstantial evidence that formed the basis of Prosecutor Bahrman's efforts, and, together, they achieved a first degree murder conviction, about which all that wish to be heard are crowing, proudly. For those that doubt my perception, consider the relative absence of detailed references to, or emphasis of, both the "shoe sole bruise and martial arts kick" and "irrefutable timeline", both "crucial" pieces of evidence claimed by jury members, yet unemphasized in the prosecution's rambling, and subjective final arguments.
The jury members' responsibilities did not include "proving" how many alleged unrecorded conflicting statements a prime suspect made, or "proving" that a straight line bruise was the result of a kick that propelled his wife over a cliff, or "proving" their creation of a compelling "timeline", or "proving" that he sought other women, or "proving" he was a hypocrite and deceiver; or proving he was a murderer. Prosecutor Bahrman had those responsibilities, during the trial, using the products of all the "professional" investigative personnel involved. The jury's responsibility was to determine the defendant's degree of guilt, regarding the death of his wife, based upon the objective value of the evidence and testimony presented during the trial, and if the testimony and evidence, as presented, did not add up to 12 unanimous verdicts, then so be it.
From my perspective, convicting Richardson was a political decision, supporting the very weak case evidence, testimony, and arguments presented by poorly trained and biased local law enforcement personnel. Even if Thomas Richardson was a murderer, as alleged, the jury had the responsibility to aquit him if the allegations against him were not supported, beyond a reasonable doubt, by the sum and integrity of the testimony and evidence presented during the trial. I understand, from jury members' own words, they convicted Richardson in spite of the evidence.
The curious may listen to the final arguments, here:
Thomas Richardson trial final arguments
At the sentencing hearing of 05/19/08, Judge Carmody stated, "Therefore, Mr. Richardson, it is my duty to commit you to the Michigan Department of Corrections at a location of their choosing, for the term of your natural life without parole." As I understand the evidence, legal arguments, verdict, and sentence, Richardson's life with "Bubba" is for his "crime" of being a likely manipulative deceptive ass-hole, the only "crime" that questionable circumstantial evidence indicated that he might be. I am sure that some, in my community, consider me in a similar fashion, and for all that I have done in my lives, including considering murder, a murderer I ain't.
I noted that much of the trial testimony against Richardson appeared to be based upon his "hypocritical Christian values". I also noted the damning evidence of those same hypocritical values among many of the WLUC-TV trial righteous forum posters that had Richardson burning at the stake, before and during the trial, based upon little more than rumors and hearsay concerning the publicized speculation about circumstantial evidence that indicated he was a "flawed" human being. IF the intellect of the forum posters is indicative of that of Richardson's jury "peers", he was doomed by prevailing religious mythology and superstition before he was charged with the alleged crime of murdering his wife.
As much as I wanted to be a "desirable" jury member, and as much as I considered "acting the part" during the voir dire process, I chose to abide by my "belief" in the tenets of the religion of "Juris Prudence", that, to a great degree, represent my view of the world, as it should be. In retrospect, it appears, to me, that my refusal to deceive sealed Richardson's fate.
From my perspective, my observations beg the question "How much of the jury verdict was based upon the influence of superstitious religious beliefs, societal mythology, and pop culture based imagination; and how much upon the rational consideration of the preponderance of circumstantial evidence, presented at the trial?" To 12 jurors, Thomas Richardson may be guilty of first degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt, but from what I witnessed, read, and considered, he is as likely innocent, as not.
P.S. I just remembered to comment on that part of trial testimony, and related internet forum comments, that I find absolutely damning, for reasons obvious to all. It intrigued me, from jury selection to date, that the prosecution, and many internet kibitzers, emphasized their perspective that no one, who valued their life and limb, would stand at or sit upon, voluntarily, the edge of the cliff below which Richardson's wife was found.
As one who has, alone, with no professional guidance or training, hiked into and out of one of the deepest and precipitous sections of the Grand Canyon, hiked and hunted some of the Sierras wild places in Northern California, hiked and fished rugged and dangerous Colorado Rockies terrain, climbed and worked on antenna towers, white water rafted and canoed some pretty remote river sections, back country skied in sub-zero weather, blah, blah, blah, I found it absolutely hilarious that sitting or standing close to a cliff edge was considered to be unnatural and deviant behavior, likely indicative of foul play. I cannot count the times, since the jury selection process, that I have seen, on tv, in historic and current news and documentary video, men and women of greater and lesser developed intellect and physique, standing or sitting close to, or upon, some precipitous edge, perfectly at ease with their knowledge that their imminent death from falling was only slightly more likely than being struck by a meteorite.
As in my experiences, Death was standing next to them, ready to take them as a consequence of one failure of judgement. As typical representatives of a species, in general, individual healthy human beings are adventurous, daring, and secure in their personal perceptions of danger, or safety, whether others perceive the world in the same manner, or not. If "reality" tv shows, news programs, and documentaries have any redemptive educational value at all, it is the display of human nature variables that illustrate that all folk are not created equal, and one person's perception is another person's bull-shit.
The obvious differences between individual perception cannot be eliminated by the courts, so there are trial court rules for all phases of a trial, to minimize subjective content. The presiding judge cannot eliminate the subjective nature of human perception, but it is his job to minimize the effects of subjective influences upon due process. The presiding judge does not instruct jury members how to think, but he does instruct jury members to consider the trial evidence and testimony, only, and that legal arguments by the prosecution and defense are nothing more than suggestive hearsay to support their respective legal theories.
Richardson's defense attorneys did emphasisize the fact that a jury verdict is not about the politics of "majority rule", but about a total of individual juror verdicts. The defense informed the jurors that no one is compelled, by any legal procedure, to be part of a collective verdict that does not represent a juror's personal conclusion. The defense told the jurors that a jury "not guilty" verdict does not mean innocent, but means nothing more than the trial evidence and testimony presented was not sufficiently compelling, for each of 12 individual jurors to reach an individual verdict of "guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt." The defense informed the jury that the sum of every juror's verdict was required to reach a jury verdict of "guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.", a verdict that could not be reached if one or more juror believed the trial evidence and testimony did not support that decision.
Even if "...what happens in the jury room is absolutely confidential...", the court system, prosecution, defense, and judge, can not protect any individual juror from the economic, religious, social, fraternal, and political consequences of maintaining a minority opinion in a society based upon the defacto sanctity of the right of a "majority" to vote away the rights of, or seek retribution upon, a "minority". People gossip, and, in a small community, if eleven other people know your business, you may be sure that everyone else does, too, if they wish.
Unless you choose otherwise, your political vote is secret. As a juror, assuming you discuss the evidence and testimony of the case with other jurors, and vote accordingly, your vote and reasoning is known to all other jury members. It is impossible for a jury to hold a candid discussion of the merits of any issue, without all jury members being "aware" of others' differing perceptions, and the consequential effects upon the pending, and actual, jury verdict.
Needless to say, if, after a verdict, the prosecution or defense requests the individual jury members be polled, the position of each juror is a matter of public record. In either situation there is no way to know if an individual verdict vote reflects a juror's candid vote, or a vote coerced by the fear of the almost unlimited forms of retribution found in any community.
The following is a quote from the Dateline NBC show "The Mystery at Pictured Rocks", found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25443664/page/6/
Now Tom Richardson's trial was ending. For her closing argument, prosecutor Karen Bahrman returned jurors' attention to the last photograph Juanita took before she died... Karen Bahrman: The picture that speaks a thousand words. ...of Tom himself. Evidence photo Tom Richardson at the "honeymoon spot." Karen Bahrman: He needs to create this reason for her to walk to stand or walk near the edge. And he tells her to take his picture in that spot. And the expression on his face is not exactly evocative of marital bliss. That expression says very clearly, "I'm going to get you, bitch."I cannot imagine the number of times I have had my photograph taken, formally, and candidly, in which I have equated my expression with that of "bad guys" in countless tv shows, movies, post office "wanted posters", newspaper "mug shots", comic books, etc... I cannot count the times that I have taken photographs of others, after which the subject and I both agree they "look" like some stereotypical "bad character".
I cannot recall the times that I have seen photographs on drivers licenses, id cards, concealed weapons permits, passports, etc..., in which the expression of the subject could be imagined as threatening. I do not remember the many times, during my 62 years, that my facial expression, "body language", and spoken words have been "imagined" by others as threatening. The human imagination has no limits.
I am not willing to consider as appropriate, in a system of civilized juris prudence of a civilized society, blatant arguments of obvious imagination and fiction presented by a law enforcement "professional". To me, the "photograph" closing argument read like something from a "Harry Potter" work.
Beyond my perceptions related previously, it is a mystery to me, how 12 individuals reached the unanimous conclusion that Thomas Richardson committed the first degree murder of his wife, beyond reasonable doubt, based upon the circumstantial evidence, testimony, and imagination presented. That mystery is far more important to me, than how Juanita Richardson died, and should be to anyone else at risk of running afoul of the law in the U.S.A.