By Lemuel Herg and Lauren Zaren
Closing Statements in Attempted
Double Burglary at Arlington and Tanglewood
By Lemuel Herg
The past couple days of the jury trial in the case against Jerald James Elledge reached the final closing statements from Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson and Deputy District Attorney Shelby Davitt, the Honorable David Rosenberg presiding in Department 14.
Ms. Davitt was uncompromising with the first-degree burglary charge against Mr. Elledge.
She began her statement by reminding the jury of the sequence of events Mr. Elledge is accused of. She said he kicked open the door at Arlington Farms, moved around in the living room, came into contact with the primary witness in the main bedroom, then ran away to Tanglewood Apartments, where he was eventually seen by officers who came to check out the scene due to a report in the area.
During her closing statement, the prosecutor focused heavily on the elements of a burglary. The first element is satisfied with the defendant entering the apartment, which Ms. Davitt said is directly supported by the apartment resident’s testimony. The second element is that the defendant has to enter with the intent to commit theft. This too, she said, is proved as, after confronting the resident, the defendant fled to the other apartment complex to try his luck at burglarizing another apartment – and he was seen by police trying to run away with a TV. His attempt at raiding another home can be used as proof of intent for the first attempted burglary.
Speaking of that first confrontation, the alleged victim was, according to the prosecution, able to very specifically describe Mr. Elledge with his mustache and overall stature. This witness, however, was unable to identify Mr. Elledge when she saw him in court – Mr. Elledge is said to have changed his appearance a lot since the arrest, putting on nearly 60 pounds and having a rounder, more “filled out” face.
More direct evidence that supposedly placed the defendant at the scene of the crime involved his shoes, a pair of Air Jordans. Ms. Davitt demonstrated to the court how there were tread marks on the door of the primary victim’s apartment which matched the tread on Mr. Elledge’s shoes – and the marks on the door were made when he allegedly kicked open the door to the apartment.
Overall, as Mrs. Davitt wrapped up her initial closing statement, she reminded the jury that nobody would run away from a witness or police if they are innocent. His urgency and rashness were a testament to his intent to burglarize.
Mr. Johansson began his final statement by reminding the court that the system has a bias in favor of the prosecution by giving the prosecution an additional closing – the rebuttal, whereas the defense is given only one chance to sum up their case.
Mr. Johansson then systematically attacked the prosecution’s supposed lack of direct evidence. Mr. Johansson quoted of one of his old professors who would insist that “real evidence is something you can knock on.”
He also agonized about the lack of any footage at all – why did the police not have their body cameras turned on? And why did Corporal Nash not rush to Tanglewood from Arlington in Code 3 and have his dash cam record the traffic to see why it took him so long? And why was there no footage despite the scenes being public apartments?
Johansson also criticized the police and justice system for gathering evidence merely to convict the defendant, rather than to find the truth, saying that in reality defendants are always the victims, as they are the ones powerless against the institutional justice system.
He then reminded the court that family law has “very convincing evidence,” civil law has “presumptive doubt,” and criminal law has “reasonable doubt.” As this is the highest of all burdens of proof, the jury must not take it lightly.
Mr. Johansson proceeded to raise doubt in the prosecution’s analysis of the tread marks from the Air Jordans. He questioned why the prosecution did not get an expert opinion – Ms. Davitt just used her own opinion. In addition, as the Air Jordans are quite a popular pair of sneakers in the first place, he reasoned that it is not unbelievable that the shoes came from another man – which led to his final point.
The defense doubts the description given by the Arlington Farms witness, saying that she used very generic, stereotypical terms, giving non-specific details. She failed to mention Mr. Elledge’s most unique feature: his tattoos. That would have been a plain giveaway, but the complaining witness failed to have noticed any such characteristics. In addition, she was not able to identify Mr. Elledge in court, which highlights her reliance on stereotypical features of the Hispanic population.
Mr. Johansson’s final comments ended with a comparison between the American justice system, which only offers guilty or not guilty, and the Scottish justice system which allows for an additional “not proven” verdict.
Johansson openly stated that he believes this case to be neither guilty nor not guilty, but rather simply “not proven.”
The prosecution in rebuttal shot back against the defense, however, by showing the court specifically how the prints on the door match the prints on the defendant’s Air Jordans.
Additionally, she defended the main victim’s testimony as direct evidence that specifically links Mr. Elledge to the scene of the crime.
The victim’s lack of confidence in her identification of Mr. Elledge in the hospital can be explained to be shock – but her confidence returned when she later spoke to the police. Additionally, the failure to identify Mr. Elledge in court is not only explained by the defendant’s drastic change in appearance, but also is explained to show how the witness was not looking for stereotypical characteristics of a Hispanic male. She could have easily seen a Hispanic male in the defendant’s chair and assumed that he was the burglar. But rather than turning to stereotypes, she refused to acknowledge him because he was not exactly as her memory remembered him, around 60 pounds ago.
The prosecution ended her rebuttal by reminding the jury that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean “all possible doubt,” as almost anything can be doubted by somebody skeptical enough.
According to the prosecution, it was not stereotypical traits used in identifying the defendant, but rather descriptions that slowly whittled away at the potential suspects until the last one standing was Mr. Elledge.
Davis Man Found Not Guilty in Burglary Case
By Lauren Zaren
After hours of jury deliberation, Jerald James Elledge was found not guilty of burglary at Arlington Farms apartments on July 25, 2018. This ruling comes not long after the first trial, which resulted in a hung jury. However, Mr. Elledge is not entirely free to go.
Due to past charges, he is accused of violations involving a probation hearing and a mandatory supervising hearing. Judge David Rosenberg weighed in on the matter after the jury announced their final decision.
He explained that if these violations are based solely on Elledge’s most recent charge, then he will honor the jury’s opinion and dismiss these accusations.
However, Elledge was found guilty on some counts in the initial trial. If the violations also apply to these charges, Judge Rosenberg explained that “clearly he will be found in violation.”
The lengthy deliberation process meant that the verdict was delivered very late in the court session on Thursday afternoon.
The trial will reconvene at 10am on Friday morning to settle the two violations as well as complications related to prior charges.