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Is race a factor in DJ Bell trial?

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2009-09-25 -
Prosecutors accused the defense team of DJ Bell of playing "the Polynesian card" in their rebuttal argument today.

The jury went back for deliberation after 1 p.m.

"You gotta love it. Let's not play the gay card, let's lay the Polynesian card," Assistant District Attorney Tupakk Renteria said. "That's what's happened here. … They paint the story that only the Polynesians were drinking."

Bell, Renteria said, had come home about 1:30 a.m. From Salt Lake City nightclub Paper Moon that night and continued drinking with his next-door neighbors, but the defense focussed on the Polynesian neighbors and their allegedly poor parenting skills, Renteria said. Defense attorney Roger Craft had said earlier that the parents may be good parents, but on the night of the incident, in which the defense claims the children were running around unattended, "They were the world's worst parents that night."

Most of the state's witnesses were Polynesians. The jury is composed of all white individuals. Bell is also white.

resize_300width_belltrialday4.cit_JDA_1161.jpgProsecutors also replayed a taped interview with Bell the night of the incident in which he says, “I shouldn't have taken the kids.” The defense says several superfluous details Bell gave in that statement were impossibly wrong, that he wasn't thinking clearly because of his head injury, and thus should not be given any consideration.

Prosecutors reiterated their case that Bell took the kids from his next-door neighbors' home after drinking with them for several hours on July 3 and 4, 2008. Sometime around 6 a.m., as the sun was rising, one of the mothers testified she noticed the children were missing, that Bell had left the party and so went over to his home. No state witnesses claim to have seen Bell lead the children out of the home or into his own. But at his home, Latu testified, she found the children a bedroom with Bell's partner, Dan Fair, sleeping on a bed and Fair on the floor telling the children, “You kids are beautiful. I just want to make sure you're all right.”

That's a lie, defense attorney Roger Craft said. Craft, in his closing argument, showed pictures that showed there were no beds in that bedroom where the kids were allegedly found. Tapululu "Lulu" Latu walked out of the courtroom as Craft recounted that and other statements that said are untruthful.

Regarding Bell's homosexuality, Kraft said, the defense "didn't play the gay card," explaining that he doesn't believe Bell was attacked simply because he was gay. Bell had, after all, sat and drank with five or six women at the party for several hours; one even did his hair.

"Gay does matter because it leads to preconceived ideas in people's minds, and that's what happened to Lulu, Kraft said. "She was drunk, she was tired, and she had preconceived notions about being gay. That leads to a short fuse."

Kraft recounted Tatu's testimony that she has gay people in her life that she respects, "but that doesn't mean you don't think certain things when a gay has has your child," he said.

Kraft went on to ask the jury whether the same thing would have happened if his wife had brought the children into her home. Craft asked the jury, "Would she have suffered a mild traumatic head injury?"

Bell and Fair were each beaten that evening, leading to a head injury for Bell and a three-day hospital stay for Fair. State's witnesses denied being involved in the attack, but at least one witness admitted her common-law husband was involved.

No charges have been filed related to the attacks.

The jury could return a verdict at any time.

(pool court room photography by Jeffrey Allred)


Follow me on Twitter for the the verdict when it comes in!follow_jesse.jpg



Past coverage:

Brandon's Big Gay Blog: Muddled statements? Really?, Sept. 25, 2009

Bell pulled from witness stand in kidnapping case, Sept. 24, 2009

Mother testifies in kidnapping trial of gay man, Sept. 22, 2009

Brandon's Big Gay Blog: DJ Bell is on Trial, Sept. 22, 2009

Kidnapping trial begins against gay victim of attack, Sept. 21 2009

DJ Bell Trial set for September, Aug. 3, 2009

Crime and Prejudice, July 30 2008

Also:

Injustice801, a site setup by Bell and Fair supporters

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