Day 2: The First Day of the Trail

The State of Texas VS. Eric Jernigan

Charge of the Court: “The defendant, Eric Jernigan, stands charged by indictment with the offense of aggravated assault (with a deadly weapon) alleged to have been committed in Travis County, Texas, on or about the 6th day of March, 2015.  To this charge, the defendant has pled not guilty”.

Background Info Learned on Day 1:

The defendant and the alleged victim in this case lived together in a extended stay motel room.  The police were called to the scene 3 times.  The first call came from Mr. Jernigan.  He was hit in the head with an object thrown at him.  He did not want to press charges and after both parties gave their statements to the police, Mr. Jernigan was asked to leave the hotel room for the evening as Ms. O’Brien (the alleged victim in the case) had paid for the room with her credit card.  Mr. Jernigan asked the police officer multiple times what he should do.  The police were called to the scene the second time as Mr. Jernigan had returned to the motel room to gather his things.  Again, the police asked him to leave, asked if he had been drinking, and told him that they did not want to take him to jail.  Again, Mr. Jernigan asked for help and asked the policeman to just shoot him.  He asked for help multiple times stating that he did not know what to do.  The policeman’s response all three times as shown on dash cam video of the patrol car was that he didn’t know what he should do but he was a grown man and should figure it out.  The officers returned to the scene a 3rd time just before 1 am on March 6th after the 911 dispatch received multiple calls from other residents at the motel.  When they entered the room through an already broken window, they observed (and documented in crime scene photographs) that there had been a significant struggle in the room.  There were traces of blood on multiple items in the room.  The defendant and the alleged victim were in the bathroom at the back of the motel room.  The defendant had Ms. O’Brien in a headlock and she had clear signs of assault to her face and hands which were up by her neck.  The police ordered Mr. Jernigan to release the victim.  The officer closest to the parties involved had prepared to use his stun gun and the officer that was behind him pulled his weapon and said let her go or I will shoot you.  Mr. Jernigan said that he was going to kill her and then let her go.  When he let her go a steak knife fell to the ground.  All information stated in this summary was shared by the prosecution via the microphones on the police officer’s, dash cam video from the patrol car, and crime scene photographs.

Today we all gathered in the jury room.  It was much more relaxed and we were much more prepared.  Our environment is comfortable with a large table, windows surrounding the room, a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, multiple private bathrooms in the hallway, and very comfortable chairs.  We were allowed to bring snacks, laptops, and books to keep us busy during court recesses.  

Our day started out with opening argument presented by  prosecution.  I was surprised that there was not opening statement from the defense.  We heard witnesses testimony from the 911 operators who took the calls, a specialist from the APD Crime Investigative Unit, and two APD police officers who responded to the calls.  We saw crime scene photographs, the weapon found at the crime, and police audio and video that was recorded during all three calls that night to scene.  The defense team did not cross exam any of the State’s witnesses in the morning session.  When shown the photos of the victim in the crime, the defendant cried.  After lunch, the State called Ms. O’Brien, the alleged victim, to the stand.  It was stated the she was subpoenaed to testify and it appeared that she did not want to testify.  Throughout her testimony her statements were contradictory and it became unclear who took the knife out of the kitchen drawer and how she sustained her injuries.  Ms. O’Brien was the only witness called today that the defense cross-examined.  

A few thoughts not directly associated with my duty as a juror when reflecting on the circumstances we learned today:

  1. If the officers might have been able to prevent the subsequent (or at least the 3rd call) if they were trained in the Dash Risk Assessment Model
  2. If the defendant is found guilty, he might have grounds for ineffective counsel.  The defense attorney did not give an opening statement or cross examine any witness other than Ms. O’Brien
  3. October is Domestic/Dating Violence Awareness Month

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