Saturday: Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the death of Anita Zaffke.
day after tomorrow, trial begins for Lora Hunt (detailed below) in
$2 million of motorcycles retraced the route that Hunt took, from her
daughter’s home in Delavan,
Media-savvy and supremely motivated Greg Zaffke II is Anita’s son.
Terrible as it must be to lose a mother that way, how terrible it must be to lose a wife that way.
Greg2’s fiancée and her father.
Russ. No relation to me or them.
Restrooms were in that far-away building…
…so Bogie gave her a ride across the vast parking lot.
His wife gave him a helmet-cam.
“Zaffke himself wasn't a cyclist like his mother at the time of her death. Now he rides an all-black Harley-Davison Sportster bike.
“‘It's my statement,’ he said. ‘No matter what I wear, no matter what color my bike is, no matter how reflective my helmet is, they should still see me. I have a headlight and turn signals and taillights like any other vehicle on the road.
“‘The truth is that when people say they didn't see a motorcyclist, they weren't looking. It's as simple as that.’"
Monday, the First Day, jury selection: The courthouse lobby has computer screens like those you find in the baggage area at O’Hare. Instead of telling you where the bags for your flight may be found, they tell you in which courtroom a defendant may be found. There it was:
Hunt, Lora, courtroom 204 at 9:00.
At 9:20 there were only a few people in the room when the judge walked in and we began. Sort of. There were many brief, unrelated matters and there were no Zaffkes nor Hunts anywhere to be seen.
At 9:55 we had a 5 minute recess. Then the court handled a number of additional brief, unrelated matters. Then we recessed again.
At 10:45 the lawyers were at their respective tables. Lora Hunt was seated with her attorneys, Jeff Tomczak and Ragan Freitag. Mr. Hunt and their daughter sat in the back row. The Zaffkes did not attend this day. Not counting myself, the only person there for Anita was ASA Mike Mermel.
In limine is Latin for “at the threshold”. The first order of business was a motion in limine regarding evidence that may or that may not be presented to the jury. Jury selection would follow – the manner of questions to be put forth in the selection process generated energetic argument.
driving is not against the law in
Tomczak wanted that asserted by the judge in the course of questioning the prospective jurors. Mermel waved his finger in the air as he said such imprimatur (Latin: let it be printed) is tantamount to the court’s endorsement of distraction as a defense. He railed against such a straw man because Hunt is charged with recklessness, not distraction.
Mermel noted that Hunt confessed that she had seen the yellow light and then looked back at her nails.
Mermel noted that kids who drag race on the streets do not take their eyes off the street, and in that sense are not as reckless as Hunt.
Mermel noted that yellow means stop before it goes red; it does not mean speed-up before it goes red. He said that any suggestion that Zaffke is somehow responsible for her own death because she stopped for a changing traffic signal offers relative negligence as a red herring. He was precisely on point and forceful.
At 10:45 we began looking at jurors. One question each would be asked by the judge was, “Have you ever applied makeup while driving?”
Juror 222, a female, said “occasionally” but in subsequent questioning said “only lipstick” and “only when stationary”. She would be accepted.
Juror 131, a female and a manicurist, said “no” as most who followed would say. Each juror was asked many questions by the judge and Mermel and Tomczak. But 131 would be excused from service in the Hunt trial.
Jurors 216 and 149, both females, both said “no” and would both be accepted. (149 later qualified saying sometimes lipstick when stopped.) Then the first “panel” of four jurors were addressed jointly. Tomczak said (paraphrasing) “You are going to be called on to make a judgment about Lora Hunt. My client, sitting right over there, Lora Hunt, wants to know if you will promise to bring your common sense and life experience into that judgment.”
He would ask that of each panel. It sounds to me very close to jury nullification. It sounds to me like he is saying, “Sure she was a little bit reckless. But we are all a little bit reckless from time to time. It could have happened to any of us. This wasn’t criminal; it was just bad luck.”
Juror 176 was a male and, in a silly attempt at even-handedness, was the first male to be asked if he applied makeup while driving. “Never.” There were giggles throughout the courtroom. He would be excused.
Juror 143 was also male and the makeup question was changed to “personal grooming”. We established that he might comb his hair but would not shave while driving. And that concluded the first panel.
We broke for lunch at 12:20 and began again at 1:20.
When the 50 prospective jurors were first brought into the room, the public was asked to sit in chairs along the back wall. The public consisted of three people: Mr. Hunt, their daughter and me. Circumstances had me sitting next to Lora’s husband. We sat in silence as the six jurors were interviewed to fill the first panel of four. Then:
Mr. Hunt: “Are you Mr. Zaffke?”
Me: “No. Don Russ.”
(We shake hands.)
(There was a pause.)
Me: “Did you see the hundreds of motorcycles Saturday?”
Mr. Hunt: “No, but I heard about them.”
Me: “They gave me a patch.”
(I take the patch from my wallet (it is the first image at the top of this page) and show it to him.
Mr. Hunt looks up from the patch but not at me. He nods. Our conversation ends.)
I had been favorably impressed on January 5th when I saw the Hunts huddle to pray together in the hall outside the courtroom. Now I learn that Mr. Hunt cannot even recognize Mr. Zaffke and realize in retrospection that I had misinterpreted that prayer. They weren’t praying about the terrible thing that happened to the Zaffke family on Route 12; their only concern was the terrible thing that was happening to the Hunt family in Courtroom 204.
Narcissists can be Christian too.
I have believed from the beginning that Lora Hunt should plead guilty, apologize and ask for mercy. The court would have given her mercy, and probably the Zaffkes would too. I believed that would have been entirely consistent with a woman who, most forthrightly, gushes to the cops that she was doing her nails, saw the yellow, looked back at her nails and did not touch the brake until after she hit the biker. Why wouldn’t she just come clean?
Tomczak and Freitag are paid to be callous. It would be unprofessional for them to concern themselves with Anita Zaffke or her surviving family. Mark and Lora Hunt are gratuitously callous.
After lunch we considered 116, female (makeup: No); 169, male (personal grooming: No); 171, female (makeup: Yes, while stopped); and 288,male (personal grooming: No). 169 and 288 were excused so we began to consider 260, male (personal grooming: Brush hair, not shave) and 246, female (Makeup: Occasionally while driving, only lipstick). I left to meet my grandson’s school bus. More tomorrow.
Media reports on Day One:
On to my report of Day Two.
Original post, a year ago.
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