6 weeks, 45 pages of notes, 56 pages of instructions, 33 witnesses, 5 defendants, 12 lawyers……………..
In the words of the Surrenos mediator, Salazar,” Sometimes we make things harder than they is”.
In Victorville Federal Penitentiary a white inmate, Big Dave Scoppazzi, was stabbed five times with a prison made “shank” (knife) and died five days later from his wounds. The surveillance cameras show 3 Surrenos gang members entering his cell before the stabbing and 72 seconds later a fight in progress spills out on to the 2nd floor tier. A melee ensues with other inmates rushing to join in. The jury was tasked with determining if a conspiracy to murder existed and which of the 5 defendants were involved in that conspiracy.
In the course of the trial I learned many things that I hope I never need to know: all the different places to hide a “shank” including places on or in your body, how to make “Pruno” (prison made alcohol), , a “kite” is note to read not a thing to fly, it is possible to run a lucrative tatoo business out of your cell, a meth rig is good for about 50 uses, and one unarmed guard is responsible for 120 prisoners.
After 4 days of deliberation the jury found 3 of the defendants guilty of all counts, including conspiracy and 1st degree murder and 2 of the defendants guilty on lesser counts of intent to do bodily harm. One of the accused helped our decision with his testimony, ” You don’t go for your shank unless you are going to use it, you don’t pull it out to see how long it is”.
I left that courthouse with a greater understanding of our prisons , who really runs them, and that I never want to experience one first hand.
P.S. Looking at real autopsy photos is not like watching CSI.