By Danielle Eden C. Silva
The closing statements in the trial against Pilaar Lenae Thomas were completed during the morning session in Department 14. After the closing statement from the deputy district attorney, Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson delivered the defense’s closing statement.
The defense began by praising the jury system, speaking on how every juror must give their approval in order to come to a conclusion. All of them must come to proof beyond a reasonable doubt independently as this system protects criminal defendants, following the lines of innocent until proved guilty.
Attorney Hutchinson then moved along the jury instructions, pointing out how the jury must follow the laws as Judge David Rosenberg articulated them. He noted that the charges concerned the joint operations of acting and wrongful intent. In the case of the charge of escape, the defense argued there can’t have been an intentional act since there was no knowledge of the law.
The defendant was a participant in a detention program and was convicted of a felony. However, whether she escaped from the place of confinement while participating in the detention program is dependent on the definition of an intentional escape. Attorney Hutchinson quoted the definition as the unlawful departure of a prisoner from the conditions of his or her custody. In order for the crime to consist of intentionally making an unlawful departure, the defendant must have known it was unlawful with the rules clearly outlined for her.
Following signing a document regarding understanding house arrest, Ms. Thomas was allowed to return home. However, she had read over the rules but the instructions on them were different from what was on
the paper she signed. The defendant, therefore, could simply not have known all the rules in the first place rather than being seen as having forgotten about the document. The defense also argued that the document she signed had contradictory language, but she had simply wanted to sign the document and go home.
Additionally, Ms. Thomas’ case was set up so that the officer who signed her off had worked with a higher officer in releasing her, changing the process of operation.
Ms. Thomas never received those rules again and, having believed she would only get a minor write up, decided to go off on June 22 of last year. The defendant would be found in a transition house by the officer and she expressed surprise at her arrest. The defense stated that one officer deliberately lied on the stand and, while the other officer went over the unit and rules of the GPS tracking system and the detainment program, the officer was not clear about those statements. Namely, the officer did not name the criminal sanctions should the defendant ‘escape.’ Even on the stand, Ms. Thomas questioned why she was arrested, since her GPS unit was still intact.
The officer’s definition of escape did not mention leaving the house, the defense argued. Being uncontactable and cutting off the GPS unit is equivalent to escape. Because this was not clear, the defense argued for entrapment where a law-abiding citizen would find the crime “unusually attractive.” Attorney Hutchinson used the example of texting and driving, noting people do that all the time. If such an action was made a felony, then the act of texting and driving would decrease exponentially. If the consequences are not significant, the crime appears “unusually attractive” because of the misinformation about punishment. Additionally, the defense noted that the defendant likely began to develop cabin fever with surrounding circumstances, so she was tempted to go out, willing to take the lighter consequences.
The defense closed their statement by stating the jury should not come to a decision for the sake of choosing a decision. They should all weigh their opinions equally.
The prosecution then delivered their rebuttal closing. The deputy DA asked the jury to start off by writing the term “common sense” on their notes. The prosecution stated the defense was attempting to use smoke and mirrors to bury this general intent crime case. Ms. Thomas had willfully walked out and her knowledge of the law is not relevant. The defendant had said she had read all of these sections and she did apply for house arrest on multiple occasions, making her familiar with the rules. The prosecution argued the document she signed was not confusing, like signing real estate documents for a house.
Additionally, entrapment from an officer usually includes insistent requests, appeals to friendship or sympathy, and anything that would be actively trying to draw the defendant into an illegal situation. Regardless, if she went to jail because of her ignorance of the law, the prosecution argued citizens are all presumed to know the law and follow a law. Most importantly, just because a person commits a crime does not mean they’ll be charged with that crime.
The court was then excused for the noon hour.