Friday, April 18, 2008

Notes from the David Bonds trial, Part Four

Last night, as I pulled up to my very dark house, my phone rang and I answered it. I'd been having dinner with a friend, and the phone was ringing off the hook, so I'd been ignoring it until now.

"Can you confirm what we've been hearing?" It was a reporter. A twenty year old was gunned down uptown at 5pm. The rumer was that it was a boy who had testified at the trial last week.

"It was Guy, wasn't it?" I asked. I couldn't comment. I didn't really have any information other than what they had just told me. But reporters kept calling. And I kept not commenting. What could I say?

Guy was in the car when Dinerral Shavers was killed. He was a friend of Dinerral's step son. He testified at the trial, but couldn't identify the shooter, because the shots came from behind his head. But he did testify to the location and other details that built the case.

When he was called as a witness, William Boggs, the Public Defender, made a big noisy announcement that Guy had recently been picked up on a drug charge. He also announced that if Guy testified, the Public Defender's Office would not represent him on his drug charge. It was one of many bizarre moments in the trial. The idea, on one level, was that if the PD was representing a witness in the trial, it might be a conflict of interest. But the way in which Boggs voiced this, it sounded more like an offer or a threat, ie. "If you don't testify, we WILL defend you."

Last night, exactly a week after David Bonds was released, Guy was gunned down by two men in a stolen van. The van was later recovered after being set on fire.

One of the things I've been meaning to say in all of these posts is that I totally support the idea of Public Defenders. They are necessary. They help any number of innocent people regain their freedom. They help assure that sentences for those found guilty are reasonable. Yet, watching the trial last week, I couldn't help thinking that they must know that there are people they have defended who are, in fact, guilty.

William Boggs had an additional lawyer working with him. We go to the same gym and the same cafes, and we try to exchange pleasant greetings when we see each other. I sat in the courtroom thinking about the fact that all of these people...are people, with jobs to do. And they were doing it as best they could.

And I thought about how each of the witnesses was putting their life on the line.

And I thought about how David Bonds faced two possible fates: a guilty verdict or life on the streets, where he will likely be killed.

When the verdict came in, the PD staff celebrated with giddy grins and kisses all around. David Bonds and his lawyers stood frozen, staring at the floor for a while, as if they couldn't understand what they had just heard.

I wonder what they are all thinking this morning. One thing is for sure: Boggs doesn't need to worry about defending Guy any more.

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