Caroline Callaway's father sat in the hallway of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center all last week as his daughter stood trial for the offense of DWI. As Caroline's father sat in the hallway, unable to watch, a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving watched the entire proceeding, front-row-center. Below, you'll find a summary of the facts of the case, interesting aspects of the trial, and how Antonio Buehler was denied the opportunity to testify as to Patrick Oborski's reputation for dishonesty.
Caroline was pulled over for running a red light, then arrested for DWI.
In the early morning hours of post-Superbowl Sunday - Monday, 2013, Callaway was pulled over by Austin Police Department Officer Patrick Oborski for allegedly running two red lights. The dash cam video of the stop and arrest do not clearly show that traffic violation. During the stop, Caroline is pleasant and cooperative and agrees to perform the field sobriety tests. During those tests, Caroline is balanced, follows directions, and is almost perfect on the one legged stand. Oborski's interpretation of her performance, however, did not match what the video showed, and he decided Caroline had demonstrated enough clues in the field sobriety tests ("FST's") that he had probable cause to arrest her for DWI.
Oborski is a seasoned DWI squad officer, who has made thousands of DWI arrests in Austin, Texas. He also makes a fine living off the over-time pay associated with all the court hours he must log on those DWI's.
As Caroline learns she's to be arrested, a media reporter with a camera showed up on the scene. Caroline, believing she was on the TV show COPS, began to be verbally defiant, as she was upset at being arrested, having done well on the FST's (contrary to Oborski's conclusion).
Caroline refused a breath test, and because it was a No Refusal Weekend, Oborski sought a warrant to forcibly draw Caroline's blood as evidence against her. At the jail, Caroline was yanked around by her handcuffs, causing bruising and other injuries. She was then strapped down to a restraint chair. Peace officers then hooded her with a bag to prevent her from spitting or biting. One of the officers put his dirty boot on her arm to keep her still. Caroline's version of this process differed greatly at trial compared to the officers'.
Caroline explained to the jury that she was having an anxiety attack, and she was shaking all over. Because of the anxiety attack, she could not get a full breath of air. Some unidentified officer - who Caroline could not see because she was black-bagged - grabbed her by the throat and cut off her air. She could not breath.
Strapped to the chair, unable to see, and deprived of air, she thought she was going to die.
Officers, however, claimed that they would only ever use pressure points at the jaw/mandible to force compliance with a blood draw. Oborski admitted that this was the most violent blood draw he had seen.
Caroline's pictures after her arrest show bruising on her throat & neck - not her mandible.
Officer Oborski testified that Caroline was not the "sweet young lady you see before you." He also testified that "we're a free society where videotaping happens everywhere." He, therefore, didn't have a problem with the media filming Caroline's arrest. Those of you who kept up with the Antonio Buehler case know that Oborski was the one who arrested Antonio for challenging Oborski's authority to assault a young woman passenger to a DWI stop, as Buehler exercised his First Amendment rights and took pictures of the assault. You can read more about that story here.
Antonio Buehler stood ready to testify that Oborski has a reputation in Austin for being dishonest. Buehler, after his wrongful arrest at the hands of Oborski, had been approached by hundreds of people, including those charged by Oborski, and many attorneys. All of these people had tales to tell about how dishonest Oborski is. Buehler, however, was not permitted to testify. In fact, many of the defense's theories and proposed testimony never made it in front of the jury.
The jury was threatened with being investigated for jury misconduct if they did not follow the instructions in the jury charge. Had they believed that Caroline Callaway drove while intoxicated (and the blood result was over 0.13), they would have found her guilty of that offense. They acquitted her. **Note that the video of the blood draw had been destroyed by law enforcement, and there were pictures of the alleged blood draw sight - where no needle marks were apparent. Whose blood was in that vial?
The jury rendered its verdict of acquittal the night before Clarence Darrow's birthday.
Clarence Darrow epitomizes what many criminal defense lawyers aspire to be in their practice. Caroline's lawyers Daphne Silverman and Norm Silverman would have made Darrow proud in their defense of Callaway. Callaway's lawyer Daphne Silverman was forced to file the civil rights action in federal court before trying this misdemeanor. You can read about that civil suit here. Despite having most of the Travis County Attorney's Office in the courtroom, supporting the State's prosecutors, and despite being forced to move to recuse the judge mid-trial (arguing that the judge seemed affected by an extra-judicial bias against Caroline for exercising her civil right to sue the police), Silverman & Silverman persuaded the jury that Caroline was not intoxicated that night.
If you're shopping for a defense attorney, the first question you must ask (and get a straight answer to) is how many times that lawyer has been to trial in the last year. If you have a case you want to fight, you'd be better off with trial by combat than a lawyer who pretends to be a trial lawyer but never tries a case.
It takes a big pair to move to recuse the judge mid-trial. It likewise takes quite a pair to see a high blood test result and say "No! My client wasn't intoxicated." Their strong advocacy meant the difference between a second conviction for DWI and an acquittal.
Caroline's bravery is remarkable.
Most defendants just want to get the case over with. Prosecutors know this, and exploit it during the plea bargaining process. It took quite a pair of big brass ones for Caroline to in effect say, No! The world will not be this way within her reach. No other people should be strapped down, black-bagged, and choked in the name of crime prevention.
MADD: What are you doing?
Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave Oborski an award the same year he illegally arrested Antonio Buehler. A representative from MADD watched the entire Callaway trial. At what point, MADD, does your moral authority cease protecting the public and start hurting us? My daddy's rule when I was a teen and in college was that if I got arrested, he wouldn't post bail - I'd have to sit in jail. But, I think that if I was choked by people tasked with protecting and serving the community, Daddy would be sitting in that hallway, praying for justice, as he watched the men who hurt his daughter strut by and complain to each other about "those fucking defense attorneys." (Yes, that's an exact quote). And, that's just what Caroline's father did. Her father sat in the hallway, having seen his daughter's bruises, and seen her suffer through PTSD, and he prayed for justice. MADD - you need to realize that Fathers have had Enough of Damned Unconscionable Police Practices - they're FED UPP. MADD, if Caroline had died in the process, would you still feel your moral outrage at her alleged DWI? Because that jury must have heard her father's prayers, and they said by their verdict, NOT GUILTY.