By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Clearly not the world's brightest girl, Owens stuck her weed under her emergency-brake handle and drove off to a nearby convenience store where two Dallas police officers were parked. Spotting her expired registration sticker, the cops approached Owens' car on foot and asked for her driver's license. They then asked if she'd purchased any drugs at the well-known drug house down the road.
Owens turned over the marijuana.
The three prosecutors--Mike Gillett, Shannon Ross, and Aaron Wiley--who otherwise handled the case very well--were very impressed that when they asked the members of the original, 67-person jury pool if they'd ever been in trouble with the law, Owens was the only one who immediately shot up her hand. (Apparently there were several others in the pool who should have raised their hands, too, but didn't. None of them made the cut.)
The prosecutors were also impressed that Owens faithfully reported an incident to Judge Alvarez wherein some Michael Irvin fan followed her out of the courthouse during jury selection and down to her DART bus stop, all while chanting "Not Guilty" in her face, just so she'd get the hint about what to do if she was picked for the jury.
She was honest, the prosecution team decided. She was up-front.
Well, perhaps the prosecution should have looked at her driving record down at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles--or her municipal court record over at Dallas City Hall. It turns out that on the same day Owens was arrested for buying pot, the Dallas cops found three outstanding warrants for her arrest. One was issued because she had used a fictitious inspection sticker on her car; the other two were issued because she had twice been found to be driving without the required liability insurance.
Owens was so doggedly negligent about her driving habits, in fact, that on September 19 of last year, her driver's license was indefinitely suspended by the state. Now, she takes the DART bus to the 7-Eleven store in Oak Cliff where she is a cashier. And she took a bus to the courthouse for the Irvin trial.
She was a bit slow about living up to Judge Alvarez's requirement to be at the courthouse by 9 a.m. She preferred to saunter in about 9:30 or 9:45 a.m.; she was routinely the last one to arrive. She also caused a small sensation on the day the jury panel was picked: When the 12 jurors were finally assembled by the judge, Owens was nowhere to be found. After she kept the lawyers, the judge, the media, and her fellow jurors waiting for about 20 minutes, the judge spotted her outside the courthouse, on the steps, in the 100-plus-degree heat, jamming to her rhythm-and-blues music on the headset she wears everyday.
Owens not only has no car, she has no home telephone. And though she registered to vote four years ago, she's never exercised the right.
Owens carried the burden of being the only black member of a jury that was to have weighed dope evidence against a high-profile, beloved black man. During the trial her 7-Eleven boss, Ronnie Todd, who is also African-American and considers himself Owens' friend, feared she would have been "pushed into buying into a view she doesn't believe in."
"You never know--the black-white thing is big," Todd told me during the trial. "You never know if she'll feel that kind of pressure--that she has to do this for the black race, or she had to bend her views for the white race."
What if Indidi Owens, a Cowboys fan, had returned to her minimum-wage job in Oak Cliff with a Michael Irvin conviction on her head? Todd says she could have caught a lot of heat from the customers. "I don't know if she's considered that," Todd said before the jury was dismissed. "But where we're located, the customers are 95-percent black."
And they were rooting for Michael Irvin.
"Because they're Cowboy fans, and they're black," Todd says. "And whether people realize it or not--whether they admit it or not and it's right or not right--it's going to be seen as a black-white thing."
"You can't get on this elevator," Irvin's attorney Kevin Clancy told a 49-year-old woman who had made the egregious mistake of trying to ride a public elevator at the courthouse on June 25, the first day of Irvin's trial.
Clancy held up his hand, and the woman, who was clearly and understandably intimidated, hesitated.
The woman's name was Kelly Johnson, and she had just finished standing in front of Judge Alvarez's courtroom for an hour, waiting for Irvin to emerge. Johnson had served on a jury in a different courtroom--she and her fellow jurors had just found a nobody guilty of drunk driving--and on her way home, she had decided to try to get Irvin's autograph for her son.
Johnson, who has a desk job at the downtown YWCA, was nicely dressed for court, and she had been waiting for that hour politely and quietly, hanging onto a pink lunch container, a black handbag, and a proof-of-jury-service document that she was going to turn into her boss the next day. She was hoping to get Irvin to autograph that document.