The defense rested in the Anand Jon trial this week, about five weeks after opening arguments (check out our earlier coverage). Next week, closing arguments will be made, after which the case will go to the jury. The trial has had some strange moments, involving Google and the Government of India. According to LA Weekly...
Last Saturday, October 18, the Government of India sent out this email, which was forwarded to us by supporters of Anand Jon:
Under instructions from the Government of India the Consul General of India in San Francisco called on the Attorney General of the State of California, Mr. Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on 16 October 2008, to express the concern of the Government of India at the publicly reported omissions and commissions in the due judicial process and to request the Attorney General to ensure that Anand Jon, an Indian citizen, is given every opportunity to defend himself to the fullest extent provided under the US laws.
We put a few questions to Michel Potts, who's been covering the trial for India-West (check out their site redesign). Michel's latest article was "Defense Focuses on police errors in Anand Jon Case":
SAJAforum: What is the atmosphere like in the courtroom, given the interest from members of the celebrity press and tabloids as well as the Indian community?
Michel Potts: Other than me representing India-West and another writer from LA Weekly, there has been no interest from the ethnic or mainstream media in this case, other than on the first day, when opening arguments by the prosecution and the defense were given. At the beginning of the trail, some television networks want to tape the proceedings, but judge David Wesley barred them from the courtroom. As for the Indian community, no one except closed friends of the Jon family has bothered to attend.
How would you describe the approach and personalities of the competing attorneys? Are they entertaining or strategic in any obvious ways?
Potts: There are none of the theatrics taking place in the courtroom that we are accustomed to seeing in television court dramas. The lawyers on either side are straightforward in their questioning and, given that the future of a presumably innocent man hangs in the balance, none of them treat the proceedings with levity.
The prosecution seems to have put on a case in which while they may acknowledge that the alleged victims may have discrepancies and inconsistencies in their testimony, sexual assaults were nevertheless committed. The defense has in turn questioned the credibility and, in some cases, the poorly performed investigative work done by the police detectives in collecting evidence against Jon.
As for the trial itself, the proceedings have been rather low key and devoid of the kind of dramatics seen in television legal drama series. There are no rhetorical fireworks or theatrical exchanges during the questioning of witnesses. The alleged victims when they took the stand often teared up or wept openly when describing the alleged assaults committed against them, but their demeanor changed to barely concealed hostility when the defense attorneys grilled them on the discrepancies and inconsistencies in their testimonies.
The prosecution has been seriously faulted, in regards to witness selection and all the counts that were dropped early on. Do you think that will bear heavily on the outcome?
Potts: Why more than half the charges and as many alleged victims testifying against Jon were dropped has never been explained. The testimony of the remaining nine alleged victims has been vigorously challenged by the defense team, with some surprising results. One alleged victim, for example, told a tearful tale of how she protested every step of the way while Jon coerced her into taking her clothes off while he was filming her. Yet, when the videotape was played, she did everything Jon asked without question, often giggling as she did so. What the jury will make of this, we’ll find out when their verdicts come in.
LA Weekly referred to the "supercharged sexual content" of this case. As a reporter, that too for an Indian publication, is that content difficult to address without sounding sensationalistic?
Potts: Throughout the trial, the descriptions of the alleged sexual assaults by the alleged victims as well as by the prosecution and the defense, has not been given in crude, lascivious or sensationalistic terms. So, when it comes to writing about the case, the focus is not on the alleged sexual assaults but rather the tenor and the substance of the testimony.
The Indian government has inserted itself into the case. Is there reason to believe that was necessary?
Potts: Absolutely. The defense has found evidence that someone hacked into Jon’s computer and not only read his emails and correspondence between him and his former lawyers but also forwarded information to one or more of the alleged victims. This amounts to a violation of the client-attorney privilege and is a crime. It also raises a host of other legal questions regarding Jon’s constitutional guarantee of a fair trial.