Lozano Deconstructed

"In a world where nothing is true, everything is permitted"
-- from The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Attorney Roy Black is billing us $710,000 in legal fees for representing City of Miami Police officer William Lozano, who, Black successfully argued in court last year, was "indigent" and couldn't afford his own counsel. Black actually presented the bill to the Miami city manager, but we know where the money comes from. Even notoriously indulgent subtropical taxpayers might rouse themselves to revolt on this issue. Roy Black is a hired gun, but we didn't hire him, and what's more, we didn't get any benefit from the way he handled the trial in Orlando last month.

Maybe Black feels he's entitled to this huge legal fee because he is a "masterful attorney," as he was repeatedly called in press reports. Please A call Roy Black shrewd, call him clever, call him tricky, call him a shameless manipulator, but don't call him "masterful." In pursuing his narrow, personal ends, he is contributing to the destruction of his own profession. Our justice system is based on a belief that the truth, although not absolute, is arrived at through the contention of opposing attorneys who present the best evidence for their respective positions. Black did not fight for his truth, he merely fought to blur the certainty of the truth presented by the Dade state attorney's team. The result: we were left with no truth. Deprived of closure, our community lost the opportunity to arrive at its own understanding of the tragic circumstances that gave rise to the trial, an understanding that could have been the basis for a catharsis, potentially a healing experience. "We'll never know the truth," people sigh, looking vaguely depressed and numbed to the sharp, pungent fact that a real act was committed, with real consequences in real life.

There is no doubt whatsoever that William Lozano killed Clement Anthony Lloyd as Lloyd rode his motorcycle northward along NW Third Avenue at about 6:00 p.m. on January 16, 1989, or that Lozano's actions also caused the death of Lloyd's passenger, Allan Blanchard. There is no doubt that this happened A that young bodies of flesh and blood were ruined, bloodied, crushed. Lozano admitted that he fired the bullet that pierced Lloyd's brain. The crucial issue at the trial was whether the killing was justified by Lozano's claim of self-defense.

Those of us who watched the trial unfold in miniature on our television screens became intimately familiar with visual and verbal representations of a tiny part of the world A specifically, the part of Overtown that lies along NW Third Avenue between Sixteenth and Twentieth streets. The prosecution spent hours, and sacrificed pounds of paper, in efforts to reconstruct a situation whose crucial, intersecting actions formed and dissolved in probably less than ten heartbeats of time. Evidence and testimony were amassed based on measurements of distance, the sight lines of eyewitnesses to the shooting, traces left by skid marks on the road surface, and the estimated speed of vehicles. The space in which the crucial actions occurred was diagrammed and photographed from many angles and these visual surrogates presented in the courtroom. The relationships between the apartment house in which several eyewitnesses lived, the street in front of it, the curb, the trees, parked cars, the Dumpsters, the fire hydrant A all were described from differing points of view. Those who watched the trial heard evidence based on laboratory examinations of the bullet hole and its trajectory through the helmet and skull of Mr. Lloyd, and slightly varying eyewitness accounts about the position of the motorcycle relative to Officer Lozano in the moments just before and after he fired his gun and at the moment he shot.

Along with thousands of others, I watched. When a new detail emerged from the testimony, I felt my mental mosaic shift and reconstitute itself in a slightly different configuration. Even a minuscule difference in this imaginary picture could affect William Lozano's claim that he shot in self-defense -- could send him to prison or save him.

Roy Black knew this. His strategy was to make it difficult for us to form any mental picture at all -- to blur or erase the possibilities, to make us uncertain about what happened -- even, in the end, to make us uncertain that anything really happened. His tactic of presenting no defense was perfectly consistent with such an aim. Why defend yourself against something that may not actually have occurred? It served Black's purpose, too, to keep his client off the stand, where he would reveal himself as a real person, a flesh-and-blood person with real weaknesses who could have made an error in judgment and could be held responsible for the two bodies dead at his hand. Black later stated that he wanted to prevent the prosecution from presenting additional expert testimony that would have supported the eyewitnesses who said Lozano was in no danger when he fired the fatal gunshot. Throughout the trial, his aim was to keep relevant information from reaching the jury -- and, ultimately, from reaching the community. In an age when information is power, Black's method robbed us of it.

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Paula Harper