Unreasonable Doubts

Justice may be blind, but Dallas jurors aren't--particularly when it comes to race

Instead of that history, however, jurors heard the victim's mother say he was going to college to study electronics. He was planning to enroll at Brookhaven Community College the very day he died, she said.

Rogelio's activities that night were known only to two young men, Lamont Sneed and Antonio Curry, and only one of them agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The 20-year-old Sneed, who said he knew Chin for about a year, told jurors that his friend had driven him and Curry to the Lakeside Nightclub on Northwest Highway, where they stayed until the 2 a.m. closing. "We just had a good time and left," Sneed told the court.

Chin and his friends drove a few blocks to the Racetrac gas station on Harry Hines Boulevard, a customary after-hours spot for the Lakeside crowd. They stayed there for a while, but that night police dispersed the crowd. Sneed testified that Chin left the gas station and steered his car onto Stemmons, heading south toward Sneed's house in East Dallas.

"We noticed a black pickup following us," Sneed told the court, explaining what he saw from the passenger seat. "We [had] seen it at the Racetrac. I observed it pull up on my side, and I could see...some Mexicans in the truck. They was like waving their arms like slow down, pull over."

Sneed told the court that Chin just kept driving, and a few moments later, the truck was at his side. "I glanced up, and I could see one of the guys hanging out the window with a gun, and my first reaction was like, say something, say like he had a gun or something. But it was too late, because he had already fired."

Sneed said he could see Chin's "head go down, and I could see blood." Sneed then drove off the road; the car hit a tree and a sign and came to a stop. "Did you get a good look at that person who did the shooting?" Moffitt asked in court. "Yes, I did," Sneed responded.

He then told the court that Ramirez, the man with the slicked-back hair wearing "the white shirt, black tie with designs in it with the black pants and black shoes," was the one.

Sneed told the jury he'd looked at Ramirez's mug shot in a photo lineup four days after the shooting. He "narrowed it down" to Ramirez, but did not make a positive identification at that time, he said.

Perez, who based his case on a claim of mistaken identity, made much of Sneed's hesitancy in making that ID. "You had a chance on December 13 to identify the shooter, didn't you?" Perez asked. Sneed argued about the question for a bit, and finally said it was easier for him to identify people in person.

Another witness, a young woman named Monie Newton, told the jury that she and "my homegirls Rhonda and Toya" had gone from the club to the Racetrac that night and saw Chin and his friends. She had known the victim through a girlfriend, she said.

Newton told the jury she saw Ramirez and another man tuck pistols in their pants, get out of a black truck, and go in the direction of several black teens in the gas station parking lot.

Moffitt expected to cement his case with a third key witness, Ramirez's girlfriend, but he was about to get sandbagged. Literally overnight, Andrea Brooks had turned from state's witness to would-be alibi.

Four days after the shooting, Brooks' mother had called Dallas police and told them her daughter had some information about a shooting. Brooks told Dallas homicide detective Linda Crum that Ramirez had accused her of seeing someone else, and he hit her in the head with an iron during the argument. She said she wanted to press a charge of aggravated assault--and also told a detective about Ramirez's role in the shooting.

According to Crum, Brooks told her that Ramirez was supposed to see her the night of shooting, but he didn't show up. He told her the next day that he "had gotten involved in a situation where he had to shoot a guy out on Stemmons Freeway.

"He had gotten into an altercation at a Racetrac gas station at Harry Hines and Webb Chapel with some guys in a blue Taurus," Crum told the court. "They ended up getting run off from the gas station by the police, and they got onto the freeway going southbound...and some traffic altercation began, and David told her that they pulled beside the Taurus and the back window of the car rolled down, and he thought something was going to happen, so before that he pulled a gun and shot at the car."

While Crum gave the jury that account, Brooks balked on the witness stand when Moffitt asked if she gave Crum a sworn affidavit including those facts.

Brooks told the court she hadn't read the statement before she signed it. In fact, she told the jury, Ramirez had been with her the whole night.

Through his questions, Moffitt indicated to the jury that Brooks had reread her statement the day before in his office and had no problem with it. Jurors were left to decide whom to believe--Brooks, or Crum and Moffitt--when the case became theirs at the beginning of the trial's second day.

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