Justice in the Long Halls: Jarvis Masters’ Hearings — Day 9

21 January 2011

Jarvis Masters’ evidentiary hearings reached a kind of conclusion around noon, after nine days of testimony.  The first planned witness, a former prisoner and ex-gang member implicated in the Burchfield attack, was not called.  In the housekeeping that followed — the entering of various documents into evidence — Judge Duryee ruled that she would allow an expert witness for the Masters team to appear in mid-February, when he is back in the country.  This witness is a linguistic expert, who will confirm the Masters team’s argument that two incriminating “kites” or notes in Jarvis’s handwriting were, by thorough analysis, not in his words.  Testimony was presented earlier that Jarvis wrote these kites following the murder under pressure from gang leaders in San Quentin out of fear for his life and for that of his family.

We had thought that testimony was over, but there were three witnesses to follow.  First was Joe Baxter, lead appellate attorney for Jarvis since 1993.  Joe testified to having read all 22,887 pages of the 1989-90 trial and penalty phase record.  He was asked question about records and files he believe are missing, based on his encyclopedic knowledge of the case, and of the investigations that preceded it.  This was where the Masters team/petitioners and the Attorney General team/respondents squared off, arguing about the relevance and validity of missing documents in the matter of the perceived effect and truthfulness of a key snitch witness.

The second witness was Chris Reynolds, lead investigator for Jarvis. Chris was questioned about Witness Z, and his deal with the DA’s investigator in the original Burchfield trials, a deal that the DA would not agree to.  But neither did the DA’s office deny at the time that a deal had been offered to Witness Z.

The third witness, and the only witness called by the respondent/AG team was Deputy Attorney General Alice Luster, who has been leading the AG team with the assistance of Glen Pruden, another Deputy A.G. Pruden did the questioning of Luster.  I can’t quite understand why the AGs decided to put Luster on the stand.  Her testimony was primarily about a telephone interview with Witness Z, in June of 2010 and follow-up calls by a woman purporting to be Witness Z’s wife, which said he was only willing to testify against Masters and others if given a deal that would get him out of prison.  On cross-examination by Chris Andrian, she also revealed that Witness Z, after taking the 5th on Thursday was still willing on Friday morning to trade his testimony for a deal. To their credit, the AGs did not accept this offer.

The inclusion of this June phone interview with Witness Z was also challenged by Masters’ advisory attorney Scott Kaufman as a “Crawford violation” a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “cross-examination is required to admit prior testimonial statements of witnesses that have since become unavailable.”  Judge Duryee will rule on the applicability of this standard in a session to come.

After another session of documentary housekeeping, the judge declared that she would hear oral arguments in summation next Thursday, 27 January at 10am.  This was a surprise, though not unwelcome.  She asked for these final arguments to be framed in response to the seven questions raised by the California Supreme Court when it took the unusual step of calling for this hearing. She also suggested that Jarvis’s team create a chart of what the witnesses said at different times since much of their testimony appeared to be at odds with itself.

I was going to do my own summation on the blog today, but it will be much easier to see next week after the attorneys present.  I have also been thinking about how this whole process has felt — what is encouraging in the very real possibility of freedom for Jarvis, and what is sordid and distressing about the borderline territory of thugs and cops.  And then there is the whole criminal justice system.  Still thinking. So, back to the Marin Civic Center, Courtroom K, next Thursday morning. Stay tuned.

— Alan Senauke

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About asenauke

Zen Buddhist priest, activist, writer, father, musician
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One Response to Justice in the Long Halls: Jarvis Masters’ Hearings — Day 9

  1. Sarah Paris says:

    Thanks again for your thoughtful updates on the case, Alan. Hope either I or Mark will be able to attend next Thursday. Been thinking along the same lines of “what is encouraging in the very real possibility of freedom for Jarvis, and what is sordid and distressing.” Our justice system feels pretty Kafkaesque at times.

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