That Time I was Accused of Murder

After 50+ years, it’s safe to say I’ve seen some…stuff.

One of the strangest – and most ridiculous – events in my life was the time I was accused of murder…

Every U.S. citizen gets called up once in a while to perform their civic duty. This is, of course, known as Jury Duty. I was living in San Diego when one of those occasions arose.

I spent the morning thinking of how I might get out of it. (As we all do, don’t lie.) After a couple of hours, they lined us up and shuffled us back into the courts area and we filed into one of the rooms. This is when they laid out what the case was and began “voir dire,” which is simply the process wherein prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being chosen to sit on a jury. It’s the attorneys’ opportunity to select the best possible jurors for their side, or both sides. I guess it depends, really.

The case, as it turned out was one involving two notorious biker gangs: the Mongols and the Hell’s Angels. Apparently, there had been a dust-up at a local mini-mall restaurant/bar and a Mongol was accused of murdering one of the Hell’s Angels and attempting to murder others, including a bystander.

One by one, each of us faced several questions such as: are you or have you ever been affiliated with a motorcycle gang? Do you have family or friends in law enforcement? Etc. Lots of questions.

Well, they come to me and the first question that I thought might mark me as biased was the law enforcement one. Of course, I had spent a decade or more working hand in hand with any number of government and local law: police, DEA, CIA, etc. So, I answered as honestly as I could. It rose a few eyebrows but damned if both the defense and the prosecution didn’t say that I was acceptable for the jury.


Well, then, meet Juror Number Four. Me.

The murder trial was set for two weeks and we began in earnest. They sat the two rows of the jury front and center, the gallery behind us, the judge directly in front of us and the defense and the prosecutor off to the right. The witness stand was front and left of us by the judge.

We had been going through opening arguments and then witness testimony for the prosecution for the first few days and then we began to move into defense testimonies.

A little over a week in and the defense had an eyewitness on the stand. Apparently, he was one of the “innocent bystanders” who had “seen the whole thing.” He went through the entire scenario, from the argument inside the business, to the ruckus that carried outside into the parking lot, to the shooting that then began.

At one point, the defense attorney asked the witness directly, “So, you saw the shooting that day?” The man replied that yes, he had. “And, you can point out the shooter you saw?” Yes, he could. (Now, personally, I thought this seemed damaging coming from the defense attorney, but maybe there was a plan, here?)

Without warning, the witness said, “The shooter is right there.” And. He pointed. Right At. Me.

I stopped breathing for a second. My eyes locked with those of the judge, who remained quite stoic, given this turn of events. The District Attorney, however, came right to life.

“Your honor,” he said, as he scooched up to the edge of his seat. “I’d like to point out that the witness has just indicated Juror Number Four.”

There was a heavy hush over the room and I admit my eyes were wider than normal. Now, certainly, I was a large bald man with a dark goatee. I mean, I looked like a biker. Hell, I am a biker. But, I was at a loss as to why this witness would point me out as the guy who murdered the Hell’s Angel.

The judge turned to stare at the defense attorney, who quickly noted, “I have no further questions, Your Honor.”

Needless to say, by the time we, the jury, were sequestered to debate the case and the guilt of the accused, the other jurors got a kick out of ribbing me.

In the end, however, we did convict the Mongol of first degree murder. He eventually got 76 years for his crimes. He was in his early 30s. Oh, well. Don’t just go killing folks.

Now, you’d think the story would end there. Nope.

A couple moths later, we had a company outing in the very lovely Coronado Park, on Coronado Island in San Diego. Hundreds of folks and their families out and about, playing, eating, having a blast.

The Wife and I were standing by a sidewalk not far from the Bay, chatting with friends, when this man made a beeline for me and pointed directly at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Wife stiffen. She had no idea what was going to happen or who this guy was. I stepped forward a little just as the man says, loudly, “So, you murder anybody lately?”

And, then, we shook hands and began laughing.

I turned to Mona and introduced the San Diego County Assistant District Attorney.

We chatted briefly. I’d already, of course, told her the whole crazy story. This moment just buttoned it up.

Yeah. A crazy life. So many moments. Like that time I was accused of murder. In. Court.

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About Me
CL Stegall, Author, Speaker, Biker.

Hi, I'm C.L. (yes, just "C.L.") I love to read, write, ride my motorcycle and hang with my little family. I'm a techie and a free spirit. Welcome to my site. Read More

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