City Paper Widget

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 18 (City on Trial)

This is the eighteenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 15: City on Trial (three of three)

After the dramatic premiere of the videotape showing Marion Barry smoking crack at the Vista Hotel, the prosecution laid on ten witnesses who testified that they used drugs with Barry, along with dealers and non-drug-taking witnesses.

Barry's attorney "Ken Mundy put on a perfunctory defense that lasted only a few days" (Kindle location 5113).

"Based purely on the facts, Barry's defense looked weak mesured against the government's overwhelming evidence.... It was clear that he went to great lengths to obtain the drugs and conspired to buy it.... It was also quite plain that he'd lied about his drug use.... Witness after witness had described using narcotics with the mayor, and the government introduced the mayor's own phone logs that proved that he made calls to many of the people who testified. If the jurors believe only half of the evidence, there was enough to convict Barry on most of the counts, including the felonies" (l. 5120).

"But there was much more than simple evidence at work in this case. The larger issues of race and politics and government power loomed over the courtroom and permeated every piece of evidence. When the testimony was complete, power shifted to the jury" (l. 5121).

"The case of U.S. v. Barry went to the jury on August 2, 1990" (l. 5139).

"But from the first hours of deliberation, the twelve jurors were deadlocked -- some frozen in their divergent views as were the people of Washington, D.C. There were two separate realities: One accepted and trusted the American system of justice; the other believed in a conspiracy against blacks. Across that chasm, consensus would be hard to reach" (l. 5148).

"In the end, after eight days of frustrating debate, the jurors cut a deal. On eleven of the fourteen counts, including three felony charges, they were hopelessly deadlocked by scores of 7-5 and 6-6. They didn't vote on the conspiracy count. But on two counts they decided to strike a balance." (l. 5167).

"The outcome had more to do with horse-trading than with weighing the evidence. The antigovernment, pro-Barry bloc denied the prosecution its felonies and gained acquittal on one misdemeanor. The other jurors saved face and some integrity by hitting Barry with one misdemeanor. It was a political rather than a judicial verdict" (l. 5168).

"The jurors sent a note to Judge Jackson at 4:25 p.m., August 10, a Friday" (l. 5169). The jury foreman said the jury had found Barry not guilty of one misdemeanor count, and guilty of one misdemeanor count. The judge send the jurors back to try again. A short while later, the foreman sent a note saying the jury was hopelessly deadlocked.

"Eight minutes later [Judge Thomas Penfield] Jackson called the jurors back and declared a mistrial" (l. 5177).

"Marion Barry wept.... He thought there was little likelihood of a jail sentence. He had taken on the government and won. His supporters in the room cried and grabbed him. He hugged Mundy and left the courtroom amid a throng of wellwishers" (l. 5178).

"Word already had spread outside.... The mayor walked from the side door around to the front in a victory march that thrilled his waiting fans but apparently infuriated Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. In front of the courthouse, the crowd erupted in a chant of 'Ba-rry, Ba-rry, Ba-rry!' The mayor soaked it in for a few minutes and headed off into the late summer evening" (l. 5184).

"When [US Assistant Attorney General and lead prosecutor] Jay Stephens tried to hold a press conference on the steps, the raucous crowd booed and shouted him down. Horns of passing motorists honked along Pennsylvania Avenue. Not since the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl had the town seen such spontaneous celebration" (l. 5186).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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