Friday, December 17, 2004
In the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo
After hours of questioning of the People's witnesses (Ms. Ramos and the police officer who actually arrested Barlow), the People rested and the defense got an opportunity to call some witnesses. It ended up calling three. The first was another airport police officer, whose testimony was meant to show that screeners were somehow hoping or being encouraged to look for drugs (contrary to Federal precedent which demanded that they look only for weapons and explosives), but it didn't seem to have that effect. The second witness was a surprise witness who led to great shock and drama in the courtroom.

The surprise witness in question was a former aviation screener who worked for a foreign military during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. I didn't understand, or didn't remember, which country's military the witness said he worked for, and apparently the Federal government lawyer didn't either, because she stood up and started admonishing him that he shouldn't be here at all without following proper government protocol. He politely corrected her -- "Perhaps you didn't hear me properly, ma'am" -- and said that he had never worked for the U.S. government in any capacity. She sat down.

He proceeded to testify that in his extensive military experience with improvised explosive devices and with aviation security screening, he had learned and taught other people how to deal with suspected explosive devices safely.

First follow-up question: If you think a bottle contains an improvised explosive device, is it appropriate to shake it?

No, that's almost the worst thing you can do.

Second: Is it appropriate to open the bottle?

No, that's the worst thing you can do.

The defense then argued that Ms. Ramos could not really have believed that the ibuprofen bottle in question contained an improved explosive device, because she had testified that, on removing it from Barlow's bag, she became suspicious of it, then shook it, and then opened it. These actions were the most dangerous actions she could possibly have taken if she really believed that the bottle might contain explosives (as she testified) -- they were the actions most likely to get her and her co-workers killed. Therefore, she must actually have believed that the bottle contained drugs (not what she was searching for) rather than explosives.

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