As Seattle DJ Toby "DV One" Campbell prepared to go to court in March to defend himself against felony assault charges, his friends, family, and fans came to support him. They set up a MySpace page, organized a rally and a letter-writing campaign, and planned to show up in force at the trial in a gesture of solidarity. But DV One's D-Day came and went with no trial, as did his rescheduled court date on May 7. As the days slouch into summer, he's still waiting.
Part of the delay in the case—in which Campbell stands accused of assaulting a Seattle police officer following a high-school football game at Memorial Stadium—has to do with foot-dragging by the cops, according to Campbell's public defender, Lisa Daugaard. She says a few of the police witnesses didn't consent to interviews, forcing her to pursue them through depositions and prolonging the discovery process. Campbell contends it was the police who assaulted him that night.
But some of the delay is also because Daugaard is "aggressively litigating two other issues which are important but aren't going to be resolved overnight." One of these issues could resonate far beyond this individual case: In a motion filed on March 27, Daugaard claims that the jury pool is so racially imbalanced that Campbell is precluded from getting a fair trial.
Convicted felons are not allowed to serve on juries. And because blacks are convicted of felonies at almost eight times the rate for whites in King County, a disproportionate number of blacks are disqualified from the jury pool, Daugaard says. While a defendant isn't entitled to any particular racial composition on his own jury, he is entitled to a fair chance of obtaining a jury that reflects his community, and Daugaard asserts that the inherent racial bias in the criminal justice system precludes Campbell from that fair chance. Daugaard asks for two remedies: either a fair jury pool or dismissal of the case.
Daugaard says that although the issue of jury composition has been raised before in the 1970s and 1980s, those lawyers didn't have the benefit of recent analysis of the racial composition of people being convicted in the criminal justice system. Daugaard also was fortified by a ruling last year by a federal judge in Eastern Washington, who found as a matter of fact that racial bias pervades the state's criminal justice system. "That means we can't pretend that felon disqualification in jury selection is a race-neutral thing," says Daugaard.
"It's an interesting notion," says Bob Mahler, a criminal defense lawyer at Bullivant Houser Bailey. The theory Daugaard is using, he says, "is very original, creative, and sort of intuitively right." However, Mahler cautions that while it's easy to prove racial bias in arrests of minorities, it's much more difficult to prove a concerted state action in convicting them. "Convictions require a quantum of evidence," he says, "whereas arrests can take place with an utter lack of evidence, unfortunately."
Though the motion was filed specifically for Campbell's case, and the ruling would not be binding for other courts, Daugaard says it has potentially far-reaching implications. According to her, it would mean that Campbell couldn't be tried until a jury pool had been constructed that did not rely on felon disqualification. And that, she says, would probably require new legislation or perhaps a change in court rules. Mahler suspects that should the court rule in Campbell's favor, the state would immediately appeal it, which would lead to a precedent-setting ruling from the state Supreme Court.
Daugaard also has been pursuing discovery related to one of the police witnesses in the DV One incident: Officer Michael Tietjen. He and his partner, Gregory Neubert, were involved in a notorious case in March in which a videotape caught them arresting a wheelchair-bound man for allegedly selling cocaine. The police launched an investigation into allegations of planting evidence and roughing up the suspect. The two officers were eventually exonerated of those charges, but the state sent letters to defense counsels in cases involving the two officers to notify them of the investigation.
Daugaard didn't receive a letter because Tietjen wasn't Campbell's arresting officer. But Tietjen was at the scene the night of Campbell's arrest, and made one of the 13 statements for the prosecutor's case. Daugaard calls him "one of the most significant officers" involved in the incident and, since March, has been pursuing discovery of all information relating to him. "In my view, if the state is going to call Tietjen as a witness, it's our responsibility to question his credibility," she explains. "I'm simply unwilling to allow Mr. Campbell to be convicted when he's not guilty and has turned down a misdemeanor offer to go to trial on this felony charge."
Waiting for the legal machinery to grind through his case hasn't been easy on Campbell. Though he says he has been able to continue to work as a DJ, he characterizes it as more like treading water. "Everything's on hold," he says. "It makes it hard to travel, to promote, or advertise where I'm going to be."
About a month ago, Bomb Hip-Hop, a San Francisco record label, invited Campbell to join its European tour. Campbell demurred because the tour would have coincided with the scheduled trial date, and when the date was pushed back again, it was too late to participate. "That would have been a huge deal monetarily and DJ'ing in general," he says with a sigh. "Stuff like that happens a lot. Someone will call me up and ask if I can do this week, and I'm like, 'Eh, I'm not sure.'"
Publicity and visibility are the lifeblood of an entertainer, but Campbell says he feels compelled to keep a low profile until his legal troubles are resolved, and he's more cautious when it comes to talking to strangers. He admits to being somewhat paranoid about putting himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as possible reprisals from the police, so he no longer posts his calendar on his Web site and doesn't publicize his shows, which he says prevents him from getting more gigs. "A lot of people will book you based on how many shows you're doing, because that means you're popular," he explains. "But I'm kind of scared to be as public as I want to be because the more visible I am, the more risk I take. I don't want somebody to show up and start trouble. I can't really promote myself. It's kind of stagnating my career."
Last week, the court assigned Campbell yet another trial date, Aug. 6. It will take until then for the court to respond to the jury challenge, and Daugaard says she hopes this will be the final delay. Campbell says that by now, he regards any trial date with a healthy circumspection, but looks forward to ending the wait. "My life has been on hold since Sept. 15 [the day of the incident]," he says. "Since that day, the way I look at interactions with police, with other people, the way I look at everything, it's all changed."