It’s been super-busy at work, with us being in back-to-back, slightly overlapping trials. We’re a down a couple of trial courts in the building, as with the California budget crisis, the Courts are simply shutting down the courtrooms where the bench officer retired or got transferred. The workload gets distributed to the remaining courtrooms, so that means more trials. For us, that has recently meant more criminal trials, which made me happy. Give me a simple felony any day over people whining about real estate transaction disagreements.

Our current trial and the trial immediately before this one were both gang-related multiple-defendant cases. The previous one was a gang-related murder where the defendant showed up to a friend’s friend’s family BBQ, saw a rival gang member, went to the car, grabbed a gun, returned to the BBQ, and shot the rival gang member point blank. Convicted, sentenced earlier this week to 50-years-to-life in state prison. His co-defendant, a teenage girl at the time who had handed him the gun and pushed him to do the deed, took a plea bargain for 21 years in state prison.

The current trial, in which our jury has just started deliberating, is a gang-related robbery. Four guys formed a “robbery crew” for a gang and they hit up a jewelry store and in less than a minute, walked away with over $100K of gold jewelry. They were only caught because two civilians (separately) who happened to be outside saw the guys pull masks over their faces and run in, then later run back out with guns and jump in their car, and the two called 911 and followed the car giving the dispatcher car, suspect descriptions and locations.

Both trials had gang experts testify as to the habits, tattoos, “jobs,” indicia, lifestyle of gangs.

I’ve had gang cases before, but I must not have been listening or something, because I’ve learned so much from these last 2 trials that I found myself surreptitiously studying the tattoos of people I come across at the beach or wherever, trying to figure out if these were symbolic gang tattoos. And yesterday, because Mr. W and I drove separately instead of our usual carpool commute, I got to listen to my choice of radio music, and Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” came on. It was at first nostalgic to high school, driving around in my ’86 Ford LTD, so different from my life now…and then I recognized “TEC-9” in the lyrics. That was the weapon used and recovered in the robbery case, and I hadn’t known the assault rifle was a “thing” with the gangs. The song went on and Dre rapped about the California Penal Codes 211 (robbery) and 187 (murder), the charges in my last two trials, and he went on to say “I don’t represent no gangbang.” It was in this trial that the defendant, testifying on the stand, said there’s a difference between a “gangbanger” and a “gang member.” I had always thought the two were interchangeable. So now I understand the lyrics better.

Who woulda’ thunk that my job would help me appreciate the music of my high school in a deeper way? My parents should be proud.