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Not Guilty Until Not Guilty

Nobody in the District Attorney’s Office wanted the Arogundade case because they all knew it was bogus.

Arogundade
Arogundade

The bad guy got away and left Jamiu Arogundade holding the bag. Literally. But it was a big bag of dope so somebody had to answer for it, and that meant somebody had to prosecute an innocent man, an innocent black man. Did he  just say innocent black man?

The Courthouse lurched into full Kill A Mockingbird mode.

Nobody in the DA's office wanted to drag this dog of a case before a jury. It had been passed around from one Deputy DA to the next for more than two years. So when a promising lawyer put in his notice that he, Daniel Madow, would be taking a better paying job in Contra Costa County, Madow was tapped to prosecute Arogundade.

But Madow was the right guy. If you're a defendant, off comes his muzzle.

DA's live in fear of election year these days. They trot out their conviction rates like sports stats and hope the lynch mobs, aka, the voting public, is happy that they've put lots of people in jail. And they do. The average DA bats around 800, and the average person he's convicting, for the most part, is a .150 D-League hitter who should be locked up for his own protection. We're not talking master criminals here.

Two of the prospective jurors worked with law enforcement. One was a Community Service Officer in Willits and knew the cops who made the bust. She was asked by Madow if she could be fair and impartial; specifically, if she could face her friends on the force if she, along with the other jurors, decided the case in favor of defense — which would basically mean she took the defendant’s word over that of her fellow officers, friends and, in fact, employers. She said of course she could. The other one was a dispatcher, and he said he, too, could remain fair and impartial, and decide against his employers and co-workers if it would serve justice.

“You wouldn’t worry about retaliation?”

“Good gracious, no.”

Mr. Arogundade’s lawyer, Douglas Rhodes, the Alternate Public Defender, thanked and excused both of these jurors, despite their eager assurances they could be fair.

The case goes so far back that it was originally Bert Schlosser’s case, and he’s been dead and buried going on three years now. And sure, it was inconsiderate of Schlosser to up and die on his client, but that’s not the only reason for the delay. The main thing that kept this case out of court so long was everybody knew the bad guy got away, and Jamiu Arogundade was just a scapegoat. And of course the forces of law and order have made Arogundade's life miserable all this time, making him drive back and forth from his home in Arizona for the endless series of court appearances while the lawyers hem and haw. The defendant has been living with the threat of a conviction hanging over his head while trying to finish college and support a family.

Did we mention the defendant was a person of color? A black man? If so, let us reiterate: An African American male. Young, smart, personable, struggling. Mr. Arogundade didn’t kill anyone, but he was caught with a lot of dope, a half-pound of meth, in fact. And this was before Proposition 47 was voted into law. It looked bad, especially bad in the light Deputy DA Madow presented it.

“You will see, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, how this man was doing something with his hands, hurriedly trying to hide something in the console of the vehicle right where the evidence was found when the officers approached. And then when they searched him he had the keys to the vehicle in his pocket. Now, the vehicle had Arizona license plates and the defendant had an Arizona driver’s license…”

Defense attorney Rhodes asked the jurors if they’d ever heard of the Heidi Effect.

“No? Well, some years ago there was a televised football game that was so lopsided that the station managers decided to cut to a movie before the game ended. But then, almost miraculously, the losing team came back and won the game in the last few minutes, while the television audience was watching the movie ‘Heidi.’ This came to be known as The Heidi Effect. I would ask you to keep it in mind, ladies and gentlemen, and don’t make up your mind about this case until after all the evidence is in.”

The allegation was basically that on the night of April 7th of 2013, about 7pm, dispatch got a call from a frantic woman in Willits who said her house was full of strangers and she’d barricaded herself in her bedroom. Deputy Hank Stolfi and Sergeant Joey DeMarco responded to what they thought could well be a home invasion robbery. Willits Police arrived as back up.

Deputy Stolfi and Sgt. DeMarco both saw Arogundade doing something in the vehicle, and DeMarco took him down while Stolfi searched the vehicle and found the dope. All the while there were loud noises coming from the house.

But how strange, the jurors must have thought, nothing else was ever said about what was going on in there. The Prosecution seemed to have lost interest in the poor woman barricaded in her room — and what was all the noise about? We’ll never know, it turns out, and evasions like this make a jury suspicious of a prosecutor’s version of events.

On cross, we learned that Willits Police reported having seen someone, quite possibly an Hispanic male, flee out the back and escape over the fence. As it turned out, the vehicle the dope was found in was registered to an Hispanic male. It was all very confusing.

The only way to clear it up was to put Mr. Arogundade on the stand, which defense attorney Rhodes did.

“What were you doing in early 2013?”

“I was working at Jack in the Box and going to college in Arizona where I live.”

“Did you have occasion to come to California?”

“Yes sir, I did.”

“How did that come about?”

“A fellow student of mine knew I was struggling financially and said I could make $1000 if I would drive a vehicle out here for her husband — which I did.”

“What was that all about?”

“His brother had given him a Jeep Cherokee and he had to come and get it. I was to pick him up at the Oakland airport — which I did, in the Ford Expedition I drove out here. Then he took over the driving and we came on up to Mendocino County.”

“Had you ever been here before?”

“No sir, I never had.”

“What did you do when you got to Willits?”

“I asked him to drop me off at a place where I could get something to eat, and he did, a shopping plaza of some kind, where I ate at a Mexican restaurant.”

“Did he eat with you?”

“No, he left and said he’d be back to pick me up later.”

“And did he?”

“Yes, sir. He came back with a man and a woman and we went up to the house where all this happened.”

“Did you go in the house?”

“No sir, I never did. I asked him for the keys to the Ford so I could charge my phone and call my wife in Arizona. The key had to be on for the charger to work, and I had just called my wife and was unhooking the charger when the police officers arrived and arrested me.”

“That’s why you had the keys?”

“Yes sir.”

“Did you know there was drugs in the console?”

“No sir. When I drove the vehicle up here there was nothing but my own CDs in the console.”

“Do you know how the drugs got there?”

“I do not.”

On cross-examination, prosecutor Madow was gasping, his eyes crossing, nostrils flaring, and arms flying about as he snorted contemptuously at Arogundade’s story.

Madow began.

“You agreed to drive up here for $1000?”

“Yes sir.”

“All the way up here and back for a $1000, huh?”

“Yes sir.”

“Doesn’t seem like much, does it?”

“It does when you work at Jack in the Box, sir.”

“Well, what about gas and expenses — food and all that?”

“He gave me $300 for expenses.”

“Did you keep any of the receipts?”

“Yes sir, I did.”

“Do you have them with you?”

“No sir.”

“The officer, Sergeant DeMarco said you resisted him when he told you to get down, is that true.”

“No sir.”

“So you’re saying the police are all liars?”

“No sir.”

“You’re calling Sergeant DeMarco a liar —?”

“Counsel,” Judge Ann Moorman said. “That’s not a proper question.”

That was refreshing. Too many judges allow the lawyers to stuff words in your mouth when you take the stand. It’s one of those nasty tricks that make lawyers seem so despicable. You either say, “No, I’m the liar,” or you face the implied threat of retaliation. It was a cheap shot and it was Mad Dog Madow’s last — in Mendocino County, at least. The judges down in Contra Costa County might let him get away with tricks like that, but it only hurt his case up here.

The jury was back in less than an hour with the Not Guilty verdict.

10 Comments

  1. Jamiu August 21, 2021

    Tabitha 858 648 23 38 phone number

    • Tabitha Whitmer November 30, 2021

      Tabitha wife sad really if take my baby from me going leave go to Mexico no.one love me no more every one agent me why no place to go take very good care of Jackson so not even live with my mom so no phone number 8586482338 like said if cps take my son from me go out state never see me again

    • Tabitha November 30, 2021

      I love you this wife but try stabb me knife that why I left my son mean world to me if they take my son from me leave out state won’t be back thing told cps I don’t take care son take care of my son so really hurt me take my son cps never see Jackson again so told cps bunch of lies tell true cheating on me threw baby out wouldn’t help us now we’re in need of some place to go love wife Tabitha my son mean l0t to me

  2. Bruce McEwen Post author | August 21, 2021

    I now live in Contra Costa County, and as I’ve just been handed tickets to an opera about Chief Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, there is an even chance I would run into Mad Dog Maddow at this event, along with various other lawyers, both prosecutors and defense attys. Maddow, however, as I recall, got into hot water w/ the State Bar Assoc. when he pulled a Glock on some bum in the streets of San Francisco who his date (another lawyer, as I recall) didn’t like the looks of… don’t know how that ended, but I hope to see him at the Opera House.

  3. Tabitha Whitmer November 30, 2021

    My son I had him be able keep him ❤ love wife Tabitha need some one in my life I’m sleep.wifey maybe one understanding be there for me

  4. Tabitha arogundade December 2, 2021

    You shouldn’t of try to stabb me either and kick out your house so now really afraid of you hurt really over it I don’t know what to do I sign son up for wic done every think of I cry almost every night when go bed what tell cps it’s all bunch of lies so crying even scared to see you I sent you the paperwork so that you can so I can change Jackson’s last night last name and you need to sign off on it I sent it to Jack’s house

  5. Whitmer tabitha December 7, 2021

    Today was my birthday happy so at super 8 hotel yes it was love ya. Went go eat have cake over here to

  6. Tabitha Whitmer December 13, 2021

    Tabitha I’m on Greenway 35ave this my send 858 588 3140 call me this Tabitha

  7. Tabitha Whitmer December 13, 2021

    Yes have to live some we’re really miss see you

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