I went to court with my son last week for a trial for some tickets that he had got for something that he did not do. He got tickets for vandalism, curfew violation and obstruction. Apparently he was at his mothers house, and their neighbor called the police one morning and informed them that someone had poured maple syrup and chili powder all over his pickup truck. So the police officer comes to the scene. He looks at the truck and scans the area and he sees a maple syrup bottle in my x-wifes yard. He goes to the door and my son answers, the cop asks my son if he knows anything about the incident. My son tells him that he doesn't know anything about it. The cop talks to my x, asks her what brand of syrup she uses, where she keeps her maple syrup and if he can see it. She says I don't know and lets the cop look in her fridge and her cupboard, where he doesn't find any syrup. So the cop writes the three citations to my son.
Now my son swears to me that he did not do this, and that he does not know who did. He was inside playing video games and sleeping overnight, I tend to believe him, so we plead not guilty and are set for a trial by judge.
So the trial comes, and the cop gets on the witness stand and tells the story about finding the bottle and not finding syrup in the house. I didn't hire a lawyer cause these are all $50 dollar fines and not really worth the expense, so I ask the court if I may represent my son and ask questions of the officer. They all agree to allow this. So I ask the officer if he has any witnesses or reports of my son having been out after curfew. He says no. I ask what evidence do you have of him being out after curfew. He has none. OK great, I feel I have made my point there and move on to the next subject. I ask the cop if he did any fingerprint analysis of the bottle to prove who had handled it. He says no, that he would have to send it to the crime lab and that would take months and cost a lot of money. So I ask him what evidence he has that my son had anything to do with the incident. The cop proceeds to mention that on a later date he talked to another youth, who he would not name, and that youth had made a claim that my son was involved. I ask the cop, where is this witness, I would like to question him. He says that the witness is not here, but he has a signed statement from him, that I can not see because it contains his name.
At this time I bring up the point that the statement is inadmissible. I can not question a piece of paper. If they want to use that kids statement against my son that he needs to be in court to make that statement. Now the judge stops the proceedings and threatens me with contempt of court. I don't know why, but he does. So I stop making this point and ask if I may resume my questions. He allows me to continue questioning. Now I ask the cop if it would be reasonable to assume that someone may have had a beef with the neighbor and came from somewhere else to pour the syrup and chili powder on his truck and simply threw the bottle in the yard as they made their escape. The cops tells me that I am making some profound leaps of judgement there. So I ask him, if someone were to shoot your neighbor and happened to toss the gun into your yard as they were leaving the scene would that make you guilty of murder?
Now everyone in the courtroom is talking at once and the judge threatens me again with contempt of court. He looks at me and says there are two officers in this room and I can have either one of them put handcuffs on you right now if you wish. So after that threat I agree to stop this line of questioning and move on. I have one last question for the cop. Knowing my son and knowing him not to lie to me when pressed for the truth, what evidence does the officer have to give my son and obstructing ticket when my son told you that he knows nothing at all about an incident that he was not involved in. The cop says. I believe that he was involved in the truck incident and therefor I believe that he is lying to me. I state that it takes more than belief to charge someone with a crime in America and this is a court of law. With that I stop asking questions.
I felt like I had made my points fairly well, raised a reasonable doubt and pointed out the fact that they had no evidence at all against my son.
The judge has made his decision.
He says, that because we did not prove that my son did not do this act, that he is going to side with the police and find him guilty of all three charges, we now owe $185 due to the court costs being added to the fines. I said to the judge, this is America, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defense. We do not have to prove that he did not do it, you have to prove that he did. This is where I was threatened with contempt of court for the third time. I looked around the room silently, said excuse me, and told me son I am leaving, you finish this. and left the room. I really didn't want to go to jail for this farce of a trial.
I just had to get that off my chest, and I wonder what you guys think. Should we appeal this decision? Or just pay the money and move on?
What a joke