Friday, April 11, 2008

Notes from the David Bonds trial, Part Two

The Sixth Ward
As I mentioned earlier, the defense claimed that David Bonds had no connection to the Sixth Ward, didn't attend school, and therefore wouldn't have been caught up in a turf war. During cross examination, Bonds testified that he was a drug dealer but that he never carried gun. He was dressed in a suit and his hair was nicely cut. Although he made gestures to the witnesses, he managed to avoid doing what I had observed during the pre trial hearings, when he would turn and glare at the Shavers family. Asked by the prosecution what the tattoos on his fingers said, he explained that they said "Down Town". He said he got the tattoo when he was twelve years old. Asked about the tattoo on his forehead, he explained that it was a number 6. "For the Sixth Ward," he said. "Where I'm from." William Boggs, the public defender, suggested in his closing arguments that the tattoos were child abuse from his time in foster care. As with all other claims, he offered no evidence to support his theory.

Notes from the David Bonds trial, Part One

This is the first of what will no doubt be several posts on the trial of David Bonds, who was acquitted yesterday. Bonds was charged with the murder of Dinerral Shavers, and, along with SilenceIsViolence, I've been following the case very closely. I can't say it was ever my intention to be so closely involved, but 18 months ago I gave a ride to Dinerral's sister Nakita when she needed to get to a meeting with the initial prosecutor assigned to the case in the DA's office. I wasn't sure if I should just wait for her, or go in with her, but in the end, I sat with her, as someone who at the time was fairly impartial, I asked a number of procedural questions that Nakita couldn't get out. She's like a sister to me now, and we often laugh about that first trip we took together, when neither of us knew the other, or really anything we were doing.

There is a huge difference between reading reports of a trial and actually attending to witness it with your own eyes. News reporters often can't stay for the entire thing: they slip, jot down some highlights, then move on to their next assignment. Late Wednesday afternoon, when the defense surprised everyone by calling David Bonds to the stand, there was only one reporter in the room for his testimony and cross examination. Everyone else had already gone home. Yesterday, there were quite a few reporters present, but in reading their published reports, I was shocked at the inaccuracies. One station quoted Judge Bigelow. The problem is that Judge Bigelow stepped down a month ago, and was never in the courtroom for this case. Judge Winsburg presided. When we exited the courtroom our only goal was to get Dinerral's family to their car. The media swarmed in, chased us, and when I returned to let them know there would be no statement for the family, I suggested that everyone refer to the Judge's comments. Tell our listeners what he said, they asked. I paraphrased his outraged closing remarks, and at least one station suggested that these were my own thoughts on the trial.

Aa I said, I'll continue with these posts, but here are some of the lowlights:

Intimidating the witnesses
At one point on Wednesday, a juror raised his hand and said he had some concerns. I knew immediately what his concerns where. David Bonds, the accused, was making a gun gesture with his hand and holding it against the side of his face as he listened to the testimony. A previous witness had refused to look in the direction of David Bonds. The current witness was having an easier time standing up against him, but the juror thought these gestures were intimidating and inappropriate. And it wasn't the first time in these proceedings that Bonds had offered threats to the witnesses. The juror was removed before deliberation. And the public defenders, led by William Boggs, insisted that poor David Bonds was merely scratching his face--because the mean people at the jail wouldn't give him a razor. Like most of the public defenders claims, this bore no relation to actual, observable truth. David Bonds had one of the closest shaves I've ever seen. You could see the lights reflecting off his cheek.

The MySpace defense
In their opening arguments, the public defenders claimed that they knew who pulled the trigger and that the witnesses were covering for him. David Bonds, they said, had no connection to the 6th Ward, and no reason to be involved in a turf war. None of this was ever introduced into evidence, because they actually had no evidence to support this theory. At one point, they attempted to make the following claim, but it was thrown out: one of the witnesses mentioned a boy named K-*****, and a year or so after the shooting, she posted a message on the MySpace page of a boy named *****. On another MySpace page, ***** was photographed with a gun. Therefore, he shot Dinerral Shavers. The judge disallowed this. The witness testified that she knows three people by that name. And I wanted to jump up and explain that MySpace friends are frequently not friends at all. My dog has several thousand MySpace friends who claim to love her.

There's more...but I'll have to continue later.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tom Perrotta tonight at NOCCA

A long, long time ago, when I was running the readings at KGB and editing Columbia's literary journal, someone introduced me to Tom Perrotta, who had just published his first collection of stories. I published an essay of his in Columbia, and then he went on to huge success with Election, Little Children, and his latest book, The Abstinence Teacher. (Unfortunately, I cannot claim that my publishing his essay led to his success--he earned it all on his own.)

Tonight, he'll be at NOCCA, which is also just pure coincidence. But he'll be reading from his work, and maybe even talking about his success as screenwriter (an Oscar nominee for Little Children). Tickets are $10/$5 for students. NOCCA is at 2800 Chartres.