For David Tran, October 29 was a very good day. He beat a drunk-driving rap he picked up in Arlington three years earlier, when he was 17 years old and blew a .095 into the Intoxilyzer -- just a shade over the .08 legal limit. The offense could be expunged from his record, and a young life could continue.
The Honorable Jerry Ray, a traveling judge who once presided over Palo Pinto County, however, was clearly disgusted -- horrified, even -- by the jury's verdict. Though certainly not the first judge in history to feel this way, Ray distinguished himself that day in a Tarrant County criminal district court by letting the jury know unequivocally what a shitty job he thought they'd done.
"You got lucky," he began, addressing Tran. "You absolutely are legally guilty of this offense. But the jury returned this verdict, and the court's obligated to accept that verdict, and you are found not guilty."
With the jury duly admonished about how utterly it had, in Ray's opinion, failed to uphold the law, the judge might have stopped there. He couldn't, reported the blog Liberally Lean From the Land of Dairy Queen. Ray had a few things to get off his chest. You know it's going to be bad when a judge prefaces his tirade with "I've been at this for such a long time I know better than to get angry."
Specifically, he was irritated the jury decided not to consider the results of the Intoxilyzer test. Jay Caballero, Tran's attorney, said the jurors discussed the verdict with him, the prosecutor and the judge afterward. One juror, he tells Unfair Park, indicated that the jury "didn't believe [Tran] should have been arrested. They didn't believe the officer had enough evidence to merit an arrest."
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Ray was livid, denouncing the verdict as the court reporter typed away. "You just decided to ignore the law and your oath, and you know you did," he said, citing the note the jury sent out during its deliberations, asking if it could ignore the Intoxilyzer results.
"And for whatever reasons, you chose to ignore that part of the evidence. And you have the right to do that. It's called jury nullification. It's when a jury decides to ignore the law or ignore the evidence. And they just want a certain outcome, and they maneuver until they get there. Perfect example, the O.J. Simpson trial. He clearly committed murder, and they didn't want to convict him, so they found a way to -- to render a not guilty verdict. I've been around over 40 years in this profession, tried an awful lot of cases as a defense lawyer, a prosecutor and as a judge, and it happens. But this ranks among there as one of the most bizarre verdicts that I've seen.
Thank you for your service, and you are excused."
Caballero was stunned to silence. "At first I thought about whether I should object. Then I decided, well, I've won, and he's not going to make a favorable impression on the jury by doing this. The court reporter ended up taking it all down anyway."