With my trial behind me, I can talk a little more about it. My first trial ended in a mistrial in spite of the judge doing everything in his power to keep exculpatory evidence from being heard by the jury. In fact, my attorney was not allowed to present evidence to the court that the original caller lied on the stand. In her call to report my legal activity, Lisa Wilkerson stated that the reason she was calling was because she thought it was “odd” that my son and I were carrying a rifle. She never mentioned what kind of gun, so she can’t claim that she did it was because I was carrying an AR15. In fact, she didn’t even know whether I was carrying a rifle or shotgun. She only mentioned that it was “odd” to see a man in the middle of the country carrying a rifle.
However, in court, Wilkerson claimed that she was “alarmed” at the sight. Never mind that an alarmed person doesn’t take the time to call a non-emergency, 7-digit number. A person truly alarmed calls 911. But, Wilkerson wasn’t alarmed. She never stated such and never used any language that would otherwise suggest she was scared or feared for her life. So, why did she claim in court that she was alarmed when she never mentioned that in her call? Well, turns out that Investigator Gilpin of TPD sat her down to do a statement a few weeks after the call. During that interview, she basically said the exact same thing she said in the original phone call.
Then Gilpin asked her something that would serve as the snowball in TPD’s false narrative to attack a law-abiding citizens. After Wilkerson wrote her statement, Gilpin asked if she would say she was alarmed. This had never entered her vocabulary prior to this statement. She never even used similar terms like frightend, scared, panicked, unnerved, distressed, agitated, upset, disconcerted, shocked, dismayed, or disturbed. Her word in the phone call and on her statement was “odd.” But, after Gilpin said this, she said, “I guess you could say that.” He then asked her to include that on her statement and she did. Then, on the stand she claimed again to be “alarmed” upon prompting by County Attorney John Gantt Jr. However, we were not allowed to play her phone call as proof that she didn’t so much as hint to such. Instead, she tried to convince the jury that “odd” and “alarming” is one and the same. They played that same broken record during the second trial.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the phone call yourself.
After watching that video, it’s hard to see why Temple Police Officer Steve Ermis was the next on the witness list for the prosecution during both trials. Ermis has proven to be a seasoned liar with a pension for thinking that he will never have to answer for being a bully. He has no compunction against putting a man in jail who wasn’t harming anyone, but heaven forbid he be held accountable for killing a woman when his motorcycle she was riding with him on left the road and crashed through a barbed wire fence in 2010. According to Ermis’ personnel records that were provided by TPD, he’s never so much as accidentally sneezed on anyone. Yet, in June 2010, a woman riding with Ermis was killed when his motorcycle left FM 487 and crashed through a barbed wire fence. I’ve been riding motorcycles for 31 years and the only way that’s possible is driving too fast for conditions or alcohol was involved. Odd how that isn’t included in his SPOTLESS record of nearly 30 years as a police officer. He’s obviously been able to get away with whatever he does for so long. Most bullies don’t have people willing to stand up to them. That’s how they get away with it. When I did just that on the side of the road that day, I was met with the business end of that decision. I know how to deal with bullies and badges.
But back to the trials.
Ermis stated on the stand that the reason his SWORN affidavit was so wrong was because it’s typical for people not remember details of stressful experiences right away. Odd. I didn’t have a problem telling Ermis what really happened mere moments after it happened AND I’M THE ONE THAT HAD A GUN PUT TO MY HEAD! I also didn’t have the benefit of reviewing my audio and video prior to submitting sworn testimony. So, either Ermis has been getting away with lying on his affidavits of probable cause for so long he didn’t think it would come back to bite him in the ass or he’s incompetent.
In Chapter 501 of the Temple Police Department General Orders Manual, the department lays out how and when officers are to use force against the public. “Officers shall use only the minimum amount of force necessary to effect lawful objectives.” According to Ermis and the County Prosecutor under Jim Nichols, it is the duty of the police to disarm people for walking down the wrong side of the road. Wrong. The law is not on their side.
According to Texas Government Code Section 411.207, “A peace officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of the officer’s official duties may disarm a license holder at any time the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for the protection of the license holder, officer, or another individual. The peace officer shall return the handgun to the license holder before discharging the license holder from the scene if the officer determines that the license holder is not a threat to the officer, license holder, or another individual and if the license holder has not violated any provision of this subchapter or committed any other violation that results in the arrest of the license holder.”
There is no law on the books that allows an officer to steal a person’s rifle without probable cause and walking down the wrong side of the road is not it. Of course, we filed motions to suppress the arrest and seizure as illegal and retired visiting Harris County Judge Neel Richardson overruled those motions as part of his efforts to “teach us how to be good parents.” One of the cases the prosecution tried to use to justify stealing my personal property was Terry v. Ohio. However, Terry required reasonable suspicion of a crime and they were responding to a legal activity that the caller considered “odd”.
In the Terry case, Detective McFadden was able to prove reasonable suspicion based on the behaviors of Terry and Chilton in a high crime area of downtown Cleveland. McFadden was able to ARTICULATE that reasonable suspicion, whereas neither Ermis nor Menix could. In fact, it took them five months and a motion from us to suppress the arrest for the prosecution to claim that their “reasonable suspicion” was that I was walking down the wrong side of a country road, a Class C misdemeanor. This fact never once entered the minds of the officers on the scene and was nothing more than a legal maneuver to save face, legitimized by a biased judge looking for any reason to convict. And so, our motion to suppress was overruled and the trial went on. Unsurprisingly, the fact that I “was committing a crime in [Officer Ermis’] very presence” played into a major theme during both trials. Suddenly, a major epidemic of criminals walking unknowingly down the wrong side of the road seemed a major cause for concern to the Temple Police Department and Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols in spite of the fact that NOT A SINGLE person had been charged or convicted of such a victimless “crime” in the past six years, according to the results of an open records request I received from the city on August 2, 2013. Zero. Not one.
Ermis has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth on the stand. For example, he tried to claim that the reason he needed to check me out was because there were a bunch of forced break-ins in the area where I was walking. Of course, that’s all the more reason for someone to walk around armed if there is such a rampant criminal element. Of course, a cursory look at crimes in the area on the RAMPS system impeaches Ermis’ statements.
This image depicts only those crimes in the past 6 months that Ermis claimed he was protecting citizens from in the area of my arrest. Other than a break-in at a local business, this was just another one of Ermis’ lies propagated by the prosecution in an attempt to convince the jury that it’s paramount we disarm citizens to determine if they MAY HAVE committed a crime instead of having reasonable suspicion that was, is, or will be committed. Thought crimes.
After Ermis finished perjuring himself, the prosecution called Sergeant Thomas Menix to the stand to testify. As he wasn’t present at the scene, we questioned why he was included as a witness. He was used to basically further the statist ideas that a man with a shiny badge can disarm anyone for any reason and we just have to suck it up. Menix is the quintessential yes man. In fact, it says a lot about Ermis that a man like Menix even outranks him. He is unsure of himself and barely audible as he answers questions meekishly into the microphone. He appears as if he is about to wet his pants having to testify. However, on cross-examination, he is forced to admit that Ermis lied; that his subordinate – a man with five years more service than Menix – lied to him several times on the scene. This explains why County Attorneys Jim Nichols and John Gantt, Jr. didn’t bring him back during the second trial. Reminds me of this clip from Liar, Liar.
Those are the only prosecution witnesses during the first trial. During the second trial, it was determined that Menix and his honesty wouldn’t be needed.
Our only witness was Chris, who testified that we always carry rifles when we’re out on our walks and have never had a problem. During the first trial, the prosecutors made Chris cry by accusing him of violating a court order. Here’s the interesting part: during the first trial, Chris was on the prosecution’s witness list! In fact, they scared the shit out of Chris by demanding they deliver their subpoena personally to Chris instead of allowing Emily to accept it since Chris was a minor. The deputy came to the house and spoke to Emily to serve Chris, but wouldn’t give it to her. As seems to be customary with law enforcement in Bell County, they obviously either didn’t know the law or refused to use it. I wouldn’t doubt if this was an intimidation tactic by the county to scare him.
Art. 24.011. SUBPOENAS; CHILD WITNESSES. (a) If a witness is younger than 18 years, the court may issue a subpoena directing a person having custody, care, or control of the child to produce the child in court.
It was the prosecution’s responsibility to inform their witnesses that a rule had been invoked that witnesses were unable to talk to each other about the trial or to others involved in it. When Chris took the stand during the first trial, prosecutors immediately began interrogating Chris about “the rule.” Chris obviously had no idea what he was talking about. Chris was removed from the stand while the judge and attorney’s retired to judge’s chambers to discuss.
Here’s what happened: because Chris was a witness, he wasn’t allowed to talk about the case or even be present when others talked about it. Well, Chris’s room is right next to ours and he admitted overhearing us talking about the trial. Prosecutors tried to claim that I violated the rule, but I wasn’t under the rule, Chris was. The judge told my attorney he was trying to find a way to hold me in contempt, but couldn’t come up with one. This is where the judge referred to us as “local yokels” and threatened to throw me, Chris and Emily in jail to “teach us how to be good parents.” In the end, the prosecution had only one choice: hold CHRIS in contempt or suck it up like a big boy that they were responsible for failing to inform THEIR witness.
The prosecution added county investigator Joe Madrano. His basic testimony was that he’s been spying on me. He accused me of using the video my son took to “gain notoriety” and “sympathy for his cause” as well as to raise money for my defense. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that TPD was lying through their teeth about me and I released the video to defend myself. I was actually a little embarrassed for this witness because 1) he wasn’t a witness to anything and 2) his testimony was meaningless. I think he was basically trying to paint me as a media whore or something like that, but I’m not quite sure what they hoped to accomplish. What I did learn from this witness is that the government spies on anyone that stands up to them. Additionally, Michael Yon peppered them with all sorts of bogus information that they wisely didn’t bother using. It says a lot that “tips” from Yon were ignored by a man tasked with spying on me and gathering as much dirt as possible to convict me. If anyone that was there in the second trial can think of exactly what Joe Madrano was trying to accomplish, please let me know in the comments. I felt dumber after hearing him testify than before. By the way, I want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Joe since he’s probably still spying on me. What up, dawg! Que pasa?
Besides Chris, our only other witness was one of the owners of a home further down the road where we were hiking. He owns several guns and testified that people are around there with guns all the time hunting and he wouldn’t have been afraid at all seeing me walking down the road with a rifle. He testified that people hunt in that area all the time. When prosecutors asked how he knew people hunt there, his response elicited courtroom giggles: “Because I live there.”
Chris was our only witness and testified to what actually happened. This naturally contradicted what the officers said happened. One moment that stuck out in my mind was when the prosecutor asked Chris about why I needed a rifle and whether the pistol would have been enough. Chris, in his usual matter-of-fact manner, responded that you don’t hunt coyote with a pistol. The courtroom laughed. The prosecutor seemed thrown off his game.
What both trials boiled down to was the jury charge. In the first trial, the jury was immediately split 3-3. After about 12 hours of deliberation, the jury was split 4-2 for acquittal. The jury sent several questions to the judge for clarification. However, the judge did not provide any additional information. For example, the jury wanted to know what “criminal negligence” was. The judge said he couldn’t respond. He also told them they couldn’t consider the circumstances surrounding the “why” I allegedly interfered. They also were not allowed to consider self defense. Once those clarifications were made, the jury almost immediately changed to a 5-1 split for conviction. One juror refused to take that into account and did what juries are supposed to do – nullify bad laws or arrests.
In fact, up until about the 1920s, jury nullification was included in jury instructions. If the jury thought that a law was baseless or too vague, they could find a defendant innocent. To best describe this, pretend the governor signed into law a bill that required Texans to wear pink on Wednesdays. One particular Wednesday, I decide to wear blue because I don’t like pink. Officer Ermis pulls up in his pink uniform and and decides to arrest me for wearing blue because I was breaking the law (kind of like walking down the wrong side of the road). At court the judge told the jury that if they found I was wearing blue on Wednesday, they had no choice but to find me guilty. A jury KNOWS I’m guilty of the crime of wearing blue, but they find me innocent anyway because it’s just a dumb law. If enough juries acquitted people of wearing blue on Wednesdays, this would basically nullify the statute itself.
Jury nullification was an important part of our legal system because, without it, judges could unduly influence the justice system. Juries can refuse to convict due to nothing more than a perceived injustice of law or the way it is being implied. For example, taking away someone’s right to keep and bear arms just because they’re walking down the wrong side of the road. Jury nullification played an important role during Prohibition. In US v. Moylan, the court upheld the right of juries to nullify, but also ruled that courts don’t have to instruct juries on its ability to use the tool. But, in the 80’s and 90’s, the courts became more hostile to jury nullification and even began to insinuate that such actions were unlawful, against the common law basis of our legal system. Because barred attorneys are effectively officers of the court, they can be punished now for even suggesting it. This is why I want to study law, but will never take the bar exam. I refuse to be “an officer of the court”. I have no problem representing myself in my traffic tickets as it is.
The judge realized the problems he created in his jury charge during the first trial and made sure to narrow it even more during the second. The jury was charged with deciding two facts only: 1) did I touch my rifle after being told not to and 2) did I refuse to IMMEDIATELY put my hands behind my back? If yes, they had to find me guilty. They could not consider that the first action was a reaction and the second was self defense as I feared for my life having a gun to my head and wanted to get it on film if I was going to be prevented from defending myself. One of the jurors from the first trial said it best in an interview he did after a mistrial was declared.
“There’s a lot of room for interpretation,” he said.
“But then we were told we couldn’t consider mitigating circumstances. We could only determine if he had done the things he was accused of. But he did them in self-defense. He was never told he was detained or that he was being investigated. That jury charge didn’t sit well with my conscience. It wasn’t a good charge,” Coterrill said.
The jury charge the attorneys agreed on Tuesday night was changed Wednesday morning, leaving out the portion about self-defense, Grisham’s attorney Blue Rannefeld said.
Here’s a complete interview with that juror where he makes a great analogy of what this judge did in my case.
I was found guilty in the second trial of a Class B misdemeanor of “interference with public duties.” I am appealing the decision on numerous rulings.