“Image: The matador & Bull. It’s large, it’s stare is intimidating, & it’s horns can pierce your flesh. Attacking it & trying to escape it are equally fatal. Instead stand your ground & let the bull charge your cape, giving it nothing to hit, making it’s horns useless. Get it angry & irritated - the harder & more furiously it charges, the faster it wears itself down. A point will come when you can turn the game around & go to work, carving up the once fearsome beast.” - R. Greene, The 33 Strategies of War
As you all know, I had a critical Discovery hearing on Aug 19, 2009 in regards of my Post-Conviction Relief appeal pending in Marion County Superior Courtroom # 2 (in Indianapolis, Indiana).
Well, on Aug 17th I was transported to Marion County Jail from the SHU of WVCF. I was hand cuffed & shackled, placed on a Marion county paddy-wagon van; where everything was made of metal & there were no windows, nor ventilation. And I was under these conditions the whole 3-hour drive. The ride was so long because transport officers stopped at the Indiana State farm prison to pick up other prisoners.
“Man!” with the addition of 10 more prisoners in the back of the paddy wagon. It quickly became hot & difficult to breathe. But I ignored the conditions because I was determined to get to court. I admit tho, after we arrived at the Marion county jail & was finally let out the paddy-wagon, I was happier than a butterfly bursting out of the cocoon for the first time. J
THE JAIL PROCESS
After going in the Marion County Jail intake, every prisoner was unshackled & cuffed, the given jail uniforms prisoners with a sentence under 50 years were dressed in orange, but those like me with 50 years or more were dressed in red. However, if any prisoner had a high profile case or history of escape they were dressed in red too. And all the reds were assigned to cell block (4-I).
While waiting to be taken to the cell block, I had the chance to interact with other prisoners face-to-face with out being handcuffed - for the first time in five years. It felt strange to me at first, so I remained observant & reserved the first hour or so. Then I started to unfold & converse more.
Marion County jail had changed its operations from the last time I was there. And the guards attitudes were different too, that is, more disrespectful & aggressive towards prisoners. Before I could make it to the cell block, I, as well as other prisoners were threatened to be “tasered” by guards (3) times for talking loud & asking too many questions. And I thought the SHU was bad? Marion county Jail is giving the SHU a run for its money in oppressive guards & procedures.
By the time I made it to the cell block it was after mid-night. And everyone was locked in their single-man cells. But a brotha names Telly Gant from the SHU too, was awake to greet me.
In the cell block, there were twenty single- man cells, two phones, a T.V (in a protective box), & a shower area. Including me, there were only five others prisoners. We were let out of the cell onto the range with access to phones, T.V, and shower at 6Am-to-11PM. I was happy to walk around outside a cell for a change.
But my small liberation from the SHU was nothing compared to my business of the Aug 19th, 2009 Discovery Hearing. So I kept my legal documents organized how I intended to present them & my argument in court.
THE DISCOVERY HEARING
The day of the hearing I was overwhelmed with nervousness. But I knew from my studies of law that all my requests from the court should be honored.
The hearing was scheduled for 9AM, so guards escorted me from the cell block around 7AM. I & twelve other prisoners going to the same court room were shackled in a chain-gang. I was the only prisoner in red & at the front of the line - we probably resembled an orange centipede with a red head marching in the underground tunnel leading to the city county building.
Once in the county building, we were uncuffed 7 placed in a holding cell behind the court room. When guards sealed the solid-cell door the prisoners started talking about their cases & charges. Many of them (were like I was 11 years prior) didn’t understand the legal system & was confused. With me being the only guy in there from prison they asked me endless questions on how they should handle their cases. I done what I could.
In fact, I prevented a 22 y/old kid from signing a “45 year plea bargain” the public defender tried to give him. When he only had a “B” felony, which only carries the maximum sentence of 20 years. I told the young brotha to be patient & not to sign his life away.
Soon enough I was called into the court room. When I walked in the court room I could tell it had been upgraded with digital clocks & laptop computers, but it was the same room where my freedom was murdered 10 years before. It seemed like I could see my murder trial still going on, with all the usual-actors. But this day-mare fizzed into the reality before me. As I made shackled paced steps to the defendants table, I noticed some familiar faces in the spectator seats. It was my sister Chevon & Valerie, my kid’s mother San, & Minister Ruth Hayes (of the NAACP Indianapolis chapter). They all met my eyes with smiles. This gave me a sense of calm. (if other supporters showed up, Thank you). At the table I laid out my legal documents I would need during the hearing. I looked to my right at the states table & I saw my adversary: A mid 40’s-early 50ish white dude with glasses, brown hair & thick mustache, heavy set, wearing a typical grey-office-suit. He had a lap top in front of him. The judge was a white female who resembled the lead actress who played in the movie ‘Aliens’ She was not the normal residing judge, but a fill in magistrate. It seem liked she begun the hearing immediately after I sat down:
First Issue Addressed: “Motion to reveal Agreements Entered Into Between The State’s Witnesses.
The state immediately claimed that there were no deals made with state’s witnesses for their testimony in my trial. And when I questioned the State about any deals made to a particular state’s witness, who had a pending trial for a “criminal diversion” charge 30 days after my trial they testified in, the State played dumb. And the judge cut my questions short by ushering me to the next issue.
Second Issue Addressed: Pro se “Petition For New Forensic ‘Visualization of Latent Fingerprints” Testing of recovered Bullet Cartridge Casings.
By now I was riddle with uncertainty. It seemed like my voice was muttered & small. Again the State started their argument first. But this time he seemed to be rambling on about a bunch of irrelevant, non-sense, in rejecting Dr bond’s new forensic fingerprinting technique & how if prints were found on bullet shells it wouldn’t change the outcome of my trial, due to eyewitness testimony. And the more he spoke, the more I grew confident of my studies of Indiana law so I said, “I OBJECT YOUR HONOR! THE STATE’S ARGUMENT IS IRRELAVANT TO THE ISSUE AT HAND. THE ISSUE HERE IS FOR ME TO SHOW DR.BOND’S SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES ARE RELIABLE IN ACCORD TO INDIANA EVIDENCE RULE 702(B), IN ORDER FOR THIS COURT TO ALOW HIM TO TEST THE BULLETSHELLS FOR PRINTS!
And the judged agreed with me. This was a very empowering feeling for me. My chest was so warm with pride, that it could’ve burned a hole in my shirt. J the judge let me continue to argue my points until she stopped the proceeding looking toward the spectators seats at Minister Hayes, to rudely say, “mam could you stop shaking your head in agreement with the Petitioner because it’s really beginning to irritate me!” In a shocked look Minister Hayes agreed to stop nodding her head before the judge says, Thank you!” this unnecessary show of Judicial power by the Judge appeared to be an act of contempt towards me & my support. I continued with more passion. I mentioned that I was introducing Dr. John Bond’s signed & notarized affidavit. The State objected, claiming the affidavit was not properly certified. But I countered by stating that, “In the country of England, the law allows “police superintendents” to notarize/certify legal documents, passport, gun licenses etc… by their signature & whomever discovered to be untruthful before his oath is subject to criminal penalty.!” the judge overruled the State’s objection & accepted Dr. Bond’s affidavit. And for this I smiled so hard my face got cramped J
* further more, the judge said she would evaluate all evidence I presented. And requested that me & the STATE submit a “findings of facts & conclusions of Law Motion” by Sept. 18th, 2009, before she decided if she’ll allow the bullet shells to be sent to Dr. Bond’s Northamtonshire Police Lab to be tested.
Third Issue addressed: “Subpoena Duces Tecum of Case Detective & Homicide File”. Strangely, the Judge tried to end the hearing without addressing my request of exculpatory (or exonerating evidence) from the police. When I spoke up, “Wait a minute your Honor, we’ve not addressed my subpoena of evidence never turned over by the police!” the Judge went into defense mode for the State.
“Are you saying the police didn’t turn nothing over to your trial lawyer?”
“No. But they didn’t give him Christy Schmitt’s 911 call statement, nor her statement made to Detective Vanbuskirk on the scene 15 minutes after the shooting!”
“But if you didn’t get the discovery evidence, how do you know this evidence exists?
“Because I have Detectives Vanbuskirk’s inter department memo, of what Schmitt stated in a tape recording, but in Vanbuskirk’s own words”…
“No, No, No! I’m not allowing you subpoena the Detective or the homicide file to fish around for straws! the Judge stated bodly.
“But Judge this evidence contained in police possession can uphold the highest interest of justice & my innocence!”
“I’m sorry I’m not going to allow it. Question your trial attorney during your PCR hearing of why he didn’t ask for the evidence. “the Judge concluded. But this was illogical, because if I don’t have the exact evidence the trial attorney should’ve requested before the PCR hearing, how can I properly argue incompetence of the trail attorney or “Brady violations” of the State?
Despite the obvious unfairness of the Judge I remain poised with my future moves in mind. So I humbly said, “Ok, Thank you your Honor!” before gathering my documents & making my shackled walk out the court room. It pays off to matador bullshit sometimes.
I walked away from this hearing feeling empowered to have represented myself Pro se for the first time in court. My morale is high. However, days after the hearing & during my ride back to the SHU on Aug. 21st, I realized that the court will treat me even worse in proceedings to come. The courts don’t Honor a Pro se prisoner, no matter how right she or he maybe in their case. This is no surprise. Our next move is vital. And because I’m in the middle of the battle, its time WE hold our cards close to the chest. So I’ll reveal none of my war secrets here, because our adversaries are spying.
CONCLUSION: Matador - Matador!
This Discovery Hearing could have been worse. We must build on the momentum we have, and chance nothing, my close supporters; you know my next move from the letter you received from me & Keith Anderson recently. Please help me materialize that aim!
Thank you for your support & prayers. We’ve come far but have a way to go. When thinking of that analogous beast/ Minotaur of a corrupt justice system, remember this:
“However desperate the situation & circumstances, don’t despair. When there is everything to fear, be unafraid. When surrounded by dangers, fear none of the. When without resources, depends on resourcefulness. When surprised, take the enemy itself by surprise” - Sun Tzu, THE ART OF WAR
Thank you for your time.
Still fightin’ 2 the bitter end
Leon Benson 8/25/09 @ 11:06