Daniel Miller, “Thirst” wrote faithfully for The Beat Within , a juvenile justice system writing workshop. For two years he chronicled his experience while being tried as an adult for a crime he committed at sixteen. Following is his story, which The Beat Within, has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.
Trial… it's about to start. I'm tired, feel weak, stressed and I feel like dying, to tell you the truth. I always ask myself why did everything have to change. So drastic? So fast? I was only 17 when I got arrested. They say the crime happened when I was 16. I still can't believe I am being charged as an adult.
I've been through some shhh in the past 37 months. Ups and a whole lot of downs. Everybody who is in my corner says I'm going home. A lot of them don't understand I am going against SJ PD! It's very complicated, my case. The case is four years old and I've been down for three. I don't think any person should go through this kind of pain – the pain that my family goes through, especially my mom.
There's been a glass window separating me from my mom. I haven't hugged or kissed my mom in two years. Now that hurts a lot, because before I got locked up, I was never home. I was always our and either doing or selling drugs, all bad. Now I wish I could've spent way more time with my Mom, with the family.
I should be out there enjoying life. I'm only 20 years old, and there are tons of things I've never done. Like fly in a plane or touch snow. To all you at the halls, stop thinking that everything is a game. This isn't a game, it's reality. It took a murder case to open my eyes. A murder I didn't even commit. It's my first time locked up.
Guys have said I've adapted pretty good to this life style. Well, either I adapted to it or I didn't, and if I didn't, then I would still be telling myself that I'm going home tomorrow. It took a year and a half for me to figure out that I wasn't going home any time soon.
This life isn't life. Open your minds and ask yourself if you want to be trapped in a box for the rest of your life. I don't. I have a family and a woman waiting for me out in the free world.
Yeah, I got a lady. She means a lot to me. She does a lot for me. For me to be facing a life sentence, she shoes that she don't care. Many male/females that are your lovers, if they seen that you were facing life, they would've been gone in 7-9 months of you being down, unless you got a kid with 'em, then that's different. This woman I am with is my third since I've been locked up. I had a lady when I got arrested. She left me after nine months. Then I came to county, and my other ex wanted to get with me and marry me. We were together for four months. My lady right now, we've been together for about one year. Great woman.
I got off subject, my bad. I will be writin' throughout my jury picks and trial. I got court on Monday, January 25th 2010. My co-defendant and I are still filing motions. The last of 'em are going to be heard the 25th and the 26th.
Arrest Date: 12-13-06, Prelim: 10-/14 – 10/16, '08
Trial Begins Soon…
Jury! We've been picking the jury for about five days. It seems to me that nobody wants to be on a jury where the defendants are 19 and 20. The fact that the crime happened when I was 16 and my co-defendant 15 raises some flags in people's heads.
I really thought it would've been different. Some people who got dismissed wanted to stay. The DA dismissed one woman because she kept looking at me and smiling. There's been a lot of different people, and a lot of different stories.
The DA finally offered us a deal. Mine was 11 years and my co-defendants was 15 to life, if you call the second one a deal. But people have told me that they were glad that I didn't take the deal. Well it was a joint deal, meaning we both had to take it.
We are down to the last 45 people. We're keeping 15, 12 for the box and three others just in case. (alternate jurors)
It feels so weird now that everything is going to be all said and done. Let's just hope that I'm good at gambling because we're playing for my life, playing for keeps.
Jury is all picked; 12 people have my life in their hands. Everything has been different. People have been saying that I've been acting different. Well, how about they go to trail for a murder that they never committed. See how different they act. I start trial tomorrow, February 9th 2010.
9:15 a.m. – Day One
“Record will show both defendants are present. Mr. Edward James Sample and Mr. Daniel Miller.”
It was a good day in court, really tiring but good. The actual eye witness got on the stand today. Six hours and 45 minutes of questioning. That's pretty brutal. He said a lot that helps. He looked a bit mad 'cause he has to come back tomorrow, but everything is goin' good.
The DA's opening statement was harsh, like they always are. He made it seem like he knew every detail form the night of the assault. He said a lot of terrible things, but he also brought up that after the assault by two individuals, the victim walked for one hour and 30 minutes to two hours. That person got the police called on him for trying to break into a car one mile and some away from where he got attacked. The second scene: he was beat with excessive force. The total of cops at that scene was six-eight. The first three used pepper spray and batons. Then a taser was deployed. More cops showed up and used their batons. Another taser was deployed. Altogether, two cops tasered the man 20 times, eight from one gun and 12 from the other.
The judge ruled that my attorney or my co-defendant's attorney can't tell the jury how many times the man was tasered. What does that tell you? They are trying to cover up what the cops really did to the man. In the DA's opening statement, he made it seem like the man only got tasered once or twice. To me, that's hiding evidence and violating my rights to a fair trial. Well, the victim/suspect passed away the next day, January 26th 2006. So much for having a fair trial.
Day 2, February 10, 2010
I don't think the first witness wanted to show up. He came late, so the DA called up another witness who says he didn't see anything from where he was standing, which he said was about 70 yards away from the attack. It was a good day though.
Then a doctor got up there on the stand for a really long time. To me he was talking about noting.
Then Mr. Richard Torres (had been my co-defendant) took the stand against us. He got a deal to testify: three years accessory after the fact. He took that in a heartbeat. He was facing life, but now he gets to go home for a fake-ass story. Well, he got up there and said what he said, but we're not done with him. Cross examination has not started. We start that on the 16th and get a five-day weekend, so now I wait.
At the end of the day, one of the jurors asked to talk to the judge at the bench. Turns out our case was in the newspaper, and it talked about everything – the attack all the way up 'til they tasered he man 20 times. It talks about how people think we're being scapegoated by SJPD for they're wrong doings. The juror said he only read some of the article, but I think the judge is going to kick him off.
I just want to go home. I want all this to end already. It's not fair. I could get life, and I wasn't even there when the crime took place.
According to the comments left on the Mercury News, a lot of people are upset with the fact that the cops aren't on trial for what they did. The county did get sued for six million by the victim's family, but the cops never went on trial. The family won the lawsuit, but they only get the money if we win at trial.
Well, I get woken up every day at six a.m,.. well, on the days I got trial. When me and my co-defendant got to our courtroom, the DA wasn't there. He was in Texas during our five-day break. The DA went somewhere on the east coast and got snowed in because of a blizzard. He got to Texas the day we were supposed to start, which is the 16th of February. His flight from Texas to San Jose was going to come in at 11 or 11:30 a.m., so we had no court in the morning because of the DA. Thank you! The excuse was his son is real active in hockey… Ooookay… Well guess what, we're real active in this trial.
When we went into court at 1:50 p.m., 50 minutes late, the DA went over the same thing with the same witness. It is very annoying just sitting there and listening to lies about yourself; kinda sucks.
My family came, my mom, dad, step dad, sister, cousin and his wife. Also my lady.
(By the way, the juror didn't get kicked off.)
Wow, it seems to me that something does not want this case to go any further. Another delay. Isn't that great? My co-defendant's attorney, his father is sick. Now that is actually understandable.
We went in for half the day, but nothin' happened. The cross examination was supposed to start today, which is the 18th. This is too much. This trial is behind schedule by three or four days. Something new is always coming up. A lot. In the four days of trial we've gone, some new stuff has been popping up.
Then to my attorney, my co-defendant's attorney and the DA, they feel that our judge doesn't know what he's doing. My attorney said the judge messed up numerous times. He said the judge messed up so bad that -God forbid – we lose, we have so much action at appeals it's not even funny.
Now we go back on the 22nd. Too many days off.
Some questions were brought to my attention today, like “How can they convict you if there is no murder weapon?” Well, that is a very great question. My family would ask my attorney these types of questions, and he would just brush them off. Then another, “How can you get convicted for someone else's wrong doings?” Well, I don't have any idea. Our laws are crazy. Oh yeah, and my favorite, “How come the cops aren't on trial?” I wish I knew the answers to all my questions, but I don't.
The same witness was up there on the stand repeating his testimony. Same thing, different say. Caught him in some lies, and made him look like an idiot. He was basically the worst part of the trial, even though his testimony and another's don't match up. But in the end, it's all up to the jury.
The detective, well one of them, was up there for the day. He looked kinda mad that our attorneys caught him in some lies.
He is not very good at lying. You can actually tell. He rubs on his chin when he lies.
I learned that there was a total of six suspects for this case. They're trying to say it's gang related, but we've never belonged to a gang, the only two out of that six.
They got a picture of me through up a “W” with my hand. Well, that's where I'm from, the West Side of San Jose. The DA went as far as saying West Side is a 'hood.
Oh, and there was evidence thrown away and blood washed away from the first scene.
But anyways, the DA and his “team” are trying to convict us so bad that the detective said we're guilty already. He said it twice about my co-defendant and once about me. Well, he wasn't supposed to say that. We are innocent 'til proven guilty.
Tomorrow the detectives partner goes on the stand. We'll see how that goes.
The trial will be going on longer than we expected.
My Mom, Dad, and my Lady all came today – including an 8th grade class for a field trip! Who does that? Take some 8th graders to a murder trial? Weird.
The days really do keep getting weirder. Well, the highlight of the day was when the DA threw a little fit in court. They went up to the bench and, well, the judge said the DA was acting unprofessional and with no respect towards the defense. The DA kinda acts like a kid.
My attorney asked me gain if I wanted to testify. Well, I'm following my heart and not testifying. I can't do that .My attorney's not giving up hope. He just said it would make our case stronger, but I'm cool. My co-defendant is like my brother (from another mother).
I just hope everything goes all right. I really hope that I go home.
For the sake of my family… I hope I get my chance.
Well, the DA threw another little fit. He can't keep his cool under pressure.
Oh, and the judge thinks he screwed up a little on a decision. Well, he did. My attorney said we got a lot of action at appeal. He said – God forbid – we get convicted, but if we do then we're comin' back real hard. I hope we get out. The DA told my attorney he thinks it will be a hung jury, and that he doesn't want to go through the process again.
The witnesses are either getting worse or they are just too full of themselves. I'll be all right, though. I gots to keep my head up for my family.
I'll be all right. Things will be fine.
Part 2 of Thirst’s court trial will appear on The Crime Report on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010. For more information about The Beat Within and other writings by juveniles in the justice system please visit their Web site at http://thebeatwithin.org.