THE SHOOTING OF BIG MAN
A joint production of the Harvard Law School Evidence Film Project (Eric F. Saltzman) and ABC News (Tom Bywaters).
The defendant, Jack Jones (JJ), was charged with attempted murder; the victim was referred to as "Big Man." It was undisputed that Jones shot and wounded Big Man; the only issue was Jones' state of mind: did he act in self defense and did he intend to kill Big Man? He was represented by two public defenders: David Allen (PD1) and Sarah Lytle (PD2). The trial took place in Seattle in 1978. The film makers received permission to record confidential meetings between Jones' and his attorneys. The following excerpt is from a meeting between Jones and his attorneys after the trial has begun but before he takes the stand.
PD1: During this period of time did you want to kill Big Man?
PD1: No. ... Don't even think about that. I mean it's so clear to me I know the answer and I wasn't even there.
PD1: Hey, you know, when he asks you tomorrow or we ask you tomorrow, we say did you intend to kill Big Man before all this and you say, "Well let me think." You know forget it. I'm going to get a towel out of my briefcase. I'm gonna throw it right in the middle of the courtroom. Okay now . . .
PD2: All you wanted to do is get him away from you.
PD1: Let me try again. When you marched him out of the hotel . . . when you shot through that post and marched him out of the hotel, did you intend to kill him at that point?
PD1: Jack, No I didn't.
JJ: No, I didn't because see if I was intending to kill him, I would have killed him over here.
PD1: Okay, Jack that's what you've got to tell the jury. I think that is good when he explains it like that.
JJ: That's what I'm trying to get around to learning, . . . you know how to express it.
PD2: It's hard to express how you felt, but it's real important to do the best you can. If you meant to kill him you could have killed him right there and it's important to try to explain what you're feeling to a jury.
[Defense Counsel #2 meets with defendant in the jail the night before
JJ: Because I was scared he'd get to me and hurt me bad, they . . . .
DC2: Did you intend to kill him at that point?
JJ: I mostly intended to stop him, I think.
DC2: You didn't think about it specifically?
JJ: No, I didn't think of killing him. . . . I don't know what I . . . . Naturally you get a little mad when things. . . .
DC2: but you were ready to kill him if you had to.
JJ: Yeah, I think so, I guess so, sure, Yeah. I probably would have.
DC2: Okay. When I ask then if you intend to kill him at that point you say, "I mostly intended to stop him. I wasn't thinking of trying to kill him."
[Jones meeting with Defense Counsel #2 before his
DC2: The first thing I thought I'd remind you, don't guess. . . . If you don't know, say you don't know . . . .The prosecutor is probably going to come down on you on the statement. He's probably going to come down on you for the things the officer says you said in the lobby. . . . It's really important, every time you get a chance at the prosecutor, every time he allows you to say it, say it again: "I was really afraid of the guy. I thought he was going to cut me up. I knew he had a knife." Those are the important things. If the prosecutor gives you a chance to say them again then do."
[At the trial the Prosecutor (P) cross-examines Jack
P: And when he came back in that door, you stood up?
P: And you walked towards him, didn't you?
JJ: Yeah, I guess so.
P: And you had your gun out?
JJ: Yeah. I took it out when he came in the door.
P: He didn't have a gun in this hand, did he?
JJ: I don't know what he had in his hand, he had his right hand in his pocket.
P: You didn't see a gun?
P: You didn't see a knife?
JJ: No. I didn't see anything.
P: So you decided that he was coming after you?
JJ: I didn't decide anything, I thought so.
P: You thought so. In your own head you made up your mind that he was coming after you?
JJ: In my own head, I was scared.
P: And Mr. Collins never displayed any sort of weapon, isn't that right?
P: And the only thing that Mr. Collins did to make you scared was walk in the front door? Isn't that right?
JJ: At that point, yeah.
P: You were pointing that gun more or less right at him when you fired that second shot.
JJ: I'd say no.
P: You would say no?
P: But the third time you were aiming to kill him. Isn't that right?
JJ: I intended to stop him the third time.
P: You intended to kill him, isn't that correct?
JJ: (Pause) I'd say I was intending to stop him.
P: Would you say you intended to kill him?
DC2: I object, he's already answered that question.
P: He has not answered that. . . .
Judge: Overruled. Answer the question.
P: Would you like me to say it again?
JJ: I thought I already did answer it.
P: Let me try one more time. When you fired that third shot, you intended to kill Mr. Collins, didn't you?
JJ: No, I intended to stop him.
P: You didn't want to kill him?
JJ: I didn't want to kill nobody.
P: You just wanted to wound him? Is that right?
JJ: Whatever it took to stop him.