On Friday I was summoned to jury duty by My Little County. The case involved a young man charged with five counts of aggravated menacing. Fourteen witnesses told different versions of the same story. It was like the movie Roshomon, only without the subtitles.
Note: This is the story as I remember it. As you'll realize by the end of this post, that's actually not worth much.
In September of last year, two spindly 14-year-old boys are walking home from school. Jimmy is white, Tommy is bi-racial. Across the street is a house where 6-8 young men in their late teens and early twenties are hanging out. Alex, the defendant, is refurbishing an old Camaro in the driveway. As they walk by, the boys look in their direction. A guy we'll call Brian takes offense and yells:
Option A: "What the fuck are you looking at?"
Option B: "What the fuck are you looking at, boy?"
(In one version of the story, the boys yelled "Fuck you" at the guys in the yard as they walked by. In fact, they had a history of randomly taunting these older guys. But even the other defense witnesses wrinkled their brows and looked confused when asked to verify this.)
The young boys walk another 50 yards or so, then pull out a cell phone and call Tommy's dad.
Dad gets the call just as he's leaving for the gym. Based on his appearance, Dad spends a substantial part of his life at the gym. He is wearing red sweat pants, a white wife-beater and, arguably, a red, sleeveless hoodie. He jumps in his van.
Dad's brother, Uncle J, also jumps in the van. They zip around the corner to where Jimmy and Tommy are standing on the sidewalk, still within sight of the Camaro crew. Another 14-year-old friend of the boys overhears the commotion and joins them, bringing their group to five.)
Option A: Dad, who is carrying, not wearing, his hoodie, decides to politely approach the young men and inquire whether someone has a problem with his son and resolve the issue. He remains on the sidewalk, and not on private property.
Option B: Ripping off his hoodie and tossing it aside, Dad swaggers up the driveway and demands to know who has a problem with his son.
Option C (I love Option C): Dad rips off both his hoodie and his undershirt and storms bare-chested up to the Gang of Six (or maybe Eight). He flexes a few times, allowing the young men to take in the full glory of his bulging chest muscles, and screams, "Which of you motherfuckers has a problem with my son?"
At this point, everyone agrees, a lot of yelling and cursing ensues.
The defendant goes into his house, where he keeps an SKS assault rifle. Telling his younger brother to call the cops, he retrieves an empty clip from beneath the bed and inserts it. State's Exhibit C looked like this:
Option A: Carrying the gun upright and pointed at the sky in his right hand, he opens the door with his left hand and steps outside and asks them to leave.
Option B: Cradling the rifle in his arms, he steps outside the front door and orders them off his property.
Option C: With the barrel of the gun pointed ground-ward, he steps outside and demands that they leave.
Option D: Brandishing the gun with his right hand on the trigger, he kicks the door open with his foot and leaps out the front door, screaming, "Who's hard now, motherfucker?"
Options E-L: Some variation on the above. (The cops didn't testify to this part since they weren't there yet.)
Option A: Dad moved to the right, still on the sidewalk, hoping to draw fire, should any ensue, away from his son.
Option B: Dad moved to the right and toward the defendant, placing a tree between them.
Option C: Dad charged the defendant screaming, "Go ahead and shoot me, motherfucker."
Option A: The defendant decided that reason and calm should prevail and set the rifle back inside the house.
Option B: The defendant realized he wasn't going to be able to do much with an empty gun and leaned it against the outside of the house.
The cops arrived soon thereafter and the whole party ground to a halt.
In Ohio, aggravated menacing is defined as knowingly causing another person to believe they will sustain serious bodily harm. Even though Alex didn't plan to shoot anyone, and in fact couldn't have shot anyone as he didn't have any ammo, he absolutely made other people believe he was going to inflict serious bodily harm. We regretfully convicted him on all five counts.
What a waste.
Off the top of my head, I can think of several ways this could have been avoided:
Option A: Alex could have chosen not to be friends with Brian-the-Bully.
Option B: The boys in the yards could have come out of their parents' basements and gotten jobs so they weren't spending their time hanging out at Alex's.
Option C: Dad could have chosen not to be so protective of Tommy.
Option D: The crotches of men's pants could be made of clear plastic.
Because that way, everyone would have already known whose was biggest.