I had been debating on whether or not to share these. Part of me was relieved to have been excused last Thursday because it meant that I could go home, I was no longer responsible for whatever actions followed as far as the case was concerned. But on the other hand, I was very disappointed because I had plenty to say, and was mad as Hell. Being excused meant that I could not speak my piece nor use the notes I had taken. After nearly a week of deliberation, I finally decided to post them … and here we are.
The case was Eric Leon Major vs. Officer Al Anger and the City of Birmingham. There were 9 counts in total against one or both of the defendants. I don’t remember all 9 of them, but do know that included were: harassment, assault, defamation, emotional distress, violation of civil rights, malicious prosecution and false arrest/imprisonment.
To fully understand what was going on, we were given a brief history of the events leading up to this case. In April 2004, Mr. Eric Major was arrested for allegedly hitting/choking and the attempted rape of his ex-fiancee, Ms. Shamanda Joseph. The initial charge was 3rd degree assault, and was later amended to Domestic Violence. Al Anger was the first officer on the scene and was the arresting officer. At the time, Mr. Major was the State Representative for District 55.
From what I understand, Ms. Joseph was named as a defendant in this lawsuit with Officer Anger and the City, but was dismissed. We were told during jury selection that she could not be subpoenaed because she had moved out of state, and subsequently would not be available for the trial. We later learned this was not entirely true, but that’s beside the point at this time.
All that follows are my notes from the case for which I was picked, and from then excused. I have tried to keep this as structured as possible. The comments in italics are notes I made to myself. Everything else is either my interpretation or verbatim of topics covered in court and/or testimonies from those who took the stand.
The Plaintiff: Eric Leon Major , Prosecuting Attorney: Stewart Springer (Springer Law Firm)
The Defendants: Officer Al Anger, City of Birmingham , Defense Attorney: Thomas Bentley, III (City of Birmingham)
The Judge Presiding: Circuit Judge Tom King, Jr.
(Names of those who took the stand are bolded, my comments are italicized)
Detective Williams â€“ with the Sheriff’s Department. Says he saw Shamanda Joseph Monday, November 5th. Unknown if she was subpoenaed. She was seen across the street, at Criminal Court.
Detective Sergeant Wendell Major â€“ Eric Major’s brother, has JD, BS, BS (criminal justice). He understood that Ms. Joseph and Mr. Major had broken off the engagement and would remain friends. Would still be subject to Domestic Violence laws. Ms. Joseph reported a rape â€“ this was not investigated to his knowledge. He states that it should have been. Says Domestic Violence Act assigns duty to law enforcement to investigate fully, from both sides.
City of Birmingham does not investigate Domestic Violence victims, another unit does. (no further info available)
Warrant 1 â€“ name was misspelled, states Mr. Major struck affiant (signed A. Anger), date/time is 04/30/2004 23:20. Charged with 3rd degree Assault.
Warrant 2 â€“ dated 12/07/2004 states corrected date: 04/29/2004. Charged with Domestic Violence.
Court dismissed Warrant 1. No investigation prior to Warrant 2.
Ms. Joseph re-interviewed November 2nd. Officer Anger filed supplemental report, did not interview Mr. Major. Says Major did not seem interested in speaking with him. Another officer took statements for Mr. Major. These were not included in Officer Anger’s report.
Domestic Violence Act authorizes law enforcement officers to create/enforce warrant for probable cause. Ms. Joseph should have been directed to magistrate for warrant issue. Domestic Violence Act incorporates Assault if relationship exists.
At trials, Ms. Joseph alleged that Mr. Major attempted to rape her. She worked for Shelia Smoot. Ms. Joseph assaulted Mr. Major with pepperspray (mace) â€“ was not arrested.
I’m wondering why Major isn’t pursuing charges against Ms. Joseph.
Officer Al Anger â€“ training updates included warrant-less arrests. He spoke with Mr. Major, was informed that he had been maced and was driving Ms. Joseph back to her car. Ms. Joseph told Officer Anger that they fought “for what seemed over an hour” and that Mr. Major tried to rape her. Officer Anger did not ask Mr. Major if he tried to rape her â€“ that would have disclosed her statements.
Observed by Office Anger: disheveled clothing, injuries to both parties, what appeared to be blood in the vehicle.
There appeared to be blood on Ms. Joseph clothing. Mr. Major’s clothing was wrinkled. Did not test “blood”/substance on Ms. Joseph’s clothing. “Blood” also located in vehicle dashboard and passenger side. Large spot on her pants. When asked about the “blood”, Ms. Joseph did not know where it was from. When asked about the “blood”, Mr. Major said that he “wasn’t bleeding.”
Officer Anger did not recall smelling alcohol on either party.
What Ms. Joseph reported: attempted rape, physical confrontation (~1 hour), Embassy Suites (where fight/att. rape occurred), assaulted.
Ms. Joseph then told Officer Anger that she was not interested in pursuing the matter further (recanted). She was trying to “make it go away.”
Officer Anger states that victims’ reluctance to prosecute is a large problem. Prosecution suggests Ms. Joseph is lying, that victims who recant or reluctant to prosecute are lying.
Ms. Joseph is a lawyer. Prosecution suggests she manipulated Domestic Violence law in her favor.
Officer Anger reports that no dash-cam in police vehicle at that incident.
Officer Anger took supplemental report from prosecuting lawyers (re: incident) in Municipal Court, pertaining to this case. Officer Anger implies that Mr. Major did not want to give supplemental report or follow-up.
Law Enforcement is required by law to act if Domestic Violence has taken place.
Officer Anger says he did as he was trained. He was informed of who Mr. Major was and no legislature immunity was afforded to him. This was cleared up by his sergeant on-scene.
Evidence tech (CSI) took photos of parties and vehicle interior.
We looked at these and it DOES look like blood! Personally, I have never seen mace or pepperspray of that color – it’s usually yellow, isn’t it???
Ms. Joseph told Officer Anger that she halted Mr. Major’s advances by injuring his genitalia with her hands/fingernails. Prosecution suggests “blood” is actually dye used in mace/pepperspray.
Eric Leon Major â€“ former State Representative, District 55.
Major / Joseph relationship timeline:
~ January 21, 2004 â€“ Broken off engagement
April 29, 2004 â€“ Prince concert at BJCC. (12 tickets, 3 groups of 4)
Major says no sexual contact after break up. He started seeing another girl who later worked with Ms. Joseph, which caused tension. Ms. Joseph may have had a different impression (re: concert … .i.e. was a date). She later pushed marriage issue after concert, his dating the other woman, and other relationship woes.
“He said / She said”!
Mr. Major pulled over about 2-3 blocks from Ona’s (jazz club). Mr. Major was advised to go to the hospital. He had tried to call lawyer friends. His phone was confiscated by the police.
Mr. Major says Ms. Joseph did not sound hysterical â€“ contrary to Officer Anger’s testimony. Officer Anger did not question Mr. Major further â€“ just the initial questioning.
Mr. Major says he was hounded by the local media â€“ he released a statement, nothing more. He estimates approximately 2 hours until he was arrested. Ms. Joseph tried to call off his arrest, telling police not to take him, “he’s a good guy.”
Officer Anger did not handcuff him, another officer did. Handcuffs were too tight and the officer refused to loosen them. Major was checked out at Cooper Green hospital. No scratches or damage to his body was found during the exam.
Report was not shown to jury â€¦ why not?
Mr. Major was then taken to Birmingham City Jail. Transporting officer was “nice” until then, cursing at Mr. Major. He says officers laughed at him when he tried to wash mace out of his eyes, which started to burn again.
Mr. Major was released around 9am that morning. His vehicle was impounded (~Finley Ave., <$100 to recover). He was brought up on criminal charges. He says he was not formally informed of what he was actually being charged with by any officers. Warrant 1 was dismissed. He was charged again a few weeks later with Warrant 2. He had to pay for transcriptions to get all information and charges (<$2K). At that trial, he was acquitted. Criminal process took about 2 years. He was a legislator for 8 years. Was not re-elected â€“ competitor used Mr. Major's arrest as his platform. Legislative salary is ~$35K. Mr. Major has a private LLC and earns income from that. He was offered a deal from City in exchange for guilty plea + fine and anger management counseling. He shows pepperspray on napkin (dark yellow) â€“ shows pictures and speculates it is red dye from pepperspray and is not blood. Unknown if his "test mace" is same type as Ms. Joseph's. Am I the only one who’s noticed that it does not even REMOTELY look like blood, nor the stains in the crime scene photographs!!
Mr. Major says that he wanted to speak with Officer Anger.
Ms. Joseph (on record) was very upset, even hysterical, and aggressive. She testified in court that she put her hands on his genitals to prevent him from having sex with her.
Earl Hilliard and Det. Sgt. Major appeared on Mr. Major’s behalf at trial, as advocates/lawyers.
Mayors Arrington and Kincaid both received complaints about City Jail conditions from Mr. Major prior to his arrest.
Can we see these??
Justification of charges against Officer Anger and/or the City of Birmingham:
- Mr. Major considers his being cursed at by officers to be verbal harassment on the city’s part. (including “gutter language”)
- Mr. Major says verbal/harassment continued at trial. He says these were “caused” by Officer Anger.
IMO: He expected kinder, gentler treatment in the jail. These are the basis for the verbal/harassment charges against the city. That may be because of his position as a State Rep., or because he is not aware of how “regular people” are treated in that type of situation. However, I am inclined not to believe the latter because he stated that he has worked in the bonding industry.
- He states the assault charge: handcuffs were too tight. He was in handcuffs until bonding, outside of time spent at the hospital. Claims Officer Anger “caused” him to be handcuffed, hence why he is named/blamed. He later says Office Anger DID cuff him.
- He states the defamation charge: the accusations against him, also “caused” by Officer Anger (Warrants 1 & 2).
- He states the emotional distress charge: also “caused” by Officer Anger.
- The violation of civil rights charge: by charging him with offenses and held Mr. Major against his will (held and arrested).
He alleges cover-up by police.
- The malicious prosecution charge: because his name on both warrants.
- The false arrest/imprisonment: Warrants 1 & 2.
Jeff Gilliam â€“ City of Birmingham Law, former DA. Minister in Vestavia. Prosecutor assigned to Mr. Major’s case (first trial).
For Warrant 2, it was amended/changed in court. No arrest. No cuffs. All documented facts and charges amended.
Twice now, Prosecutor Springer received objections from Defense for ‘misleading.’ He won’t let go of that and keeps referencing it. Let it go already!
Mr. Major was founding GUILTY at Municipal Court. Found NOT GUILTY at the Circuit Court level. (per appeal)
Mr. Gilliam says that 70% of Domestic Violence victims recant. Prosecution keeps pushing the “maybe they lie” angle.
Sergeant Paul Erwin â€“ City of Birmingham patrol supervisor, Legal/Law, South precinct. Responded to the scene with other task force officers. Near Tiki Bob’s. Spoke with Mr. Major. Says Major also spoke with Officer Anger and he yelled at Ms. Joseph. Says there was a mark on her neck and Major kept calling her vulgarities.
Sgt. Erwin also states that Major wanted Ms. Joseph to ride with him. He says that he has seen mace a lot and her stains looked like blood and did not appear to be mace.
Odd timing: Sgt. Erwin received an honorary medal from Major on the same day he was arrested.
According to Sgt. Erwin, Domestic Violence harassment was committed at the scene by Mr. Major, thereby furthering Probable Cause. Says Major did not offer any explanation or defense.
Sgt Erwin states that he is unaware of any officer swearing at Mr. Major, nor anyone saying anything remotely disrespectful.
No one tried to recover video at Embassy Suites or the BJCC.
Sgt. Erwin says Ms. Joseph told Mr. Major that she had a venereal disease so that he “would stop.” Says Mr. Major called her a “nasty whore” and other vulgarities because of this.
Sgt. Erwin believes that Mr. Major had better treatment than a “regular person.”
Further investigation may have been done by Law Department for the case, not by the arresting officer(s).
Sgt. Erwin says Mr. Major was arrested for the offense committed in his presence and other circumstances.
On initial report, “no injury” was marked.
Mr. Major’s remarks to Ms. Joseph are not recorded anywhere.
That we’ve been shown so far.
Prosecution keeps reiterating Warrant 1 errors, implying Birmingham PD is incompetent. Alleges “blue code” â€“ police stick up for each other “no matter what.”
Hospital checkups are mandatory by Law Enforcement.
Mr. Major was not arrested for attempted rape. He was arrested for Domestic Violence.
Sgt. Erwin does not recall Ms. Joseph recanting.
Sgt Erwin says that Mr. Major committed an offense in his presence and was aggressive â€“ that’s why he was arrested, for Domestic Violence. Mr. Major told Sgt. Erwin that the Domestic Violence Law “was wrong,” that it “needed to be changed,” and that when he got back to Montgomery, he was “going to change it.”
What I’m wondering is: Why wasn’t Ms. Joseph taken to the hospital and examined???
Prosecution refuses to recognize victim’s actions as self-defense; claims she assaulted Mr. Major and should have been arrested by law enforcement as well.
Jacinda Anderson â€“ City of Birmingham Law Dept., Assistant City attorney. One of the prosecutors for City of B’ham vs. Eric Major case. Second attorney, behind Mr. Gilliam. At that time, all Domestic Violence cases were handled by Judge Chambliss.
She states that this was Major’s first offense. There would have been an offer opportunity to go to Domestic Violence counseling (through Project Safe) and pay court costs, unless the victim insisted on going to trial.
This was offered to Mr. Major (Council: Doug Jones). No response until she heard from Mr. Hilliard. Hilliard relayed that Mr. Major did not want plea. He came back later and wanted plea, but victim had already agreed to go to trial. No further settlement negotiations. Proceeded to Municipal Court. Appealed to Circuit Court.
Jones asked again what the City would offer for a plea, Mr. Major did not want it. If Mr. Major didn’t want to go to Project Safe, he would have the option to see a Domestic Violence therapist. Jones said Mr. Major wanted that offer. Part of deal would have been for Major to agree not to sue the city.
Cynthia Umstead â€“ Lawyer, a rep. in Domestic Violence case.
Prosecution keeps pushing not seeing vulgarities in report issue again.
Second plea/offer was for dismissal and to sign a release. Major refused, he feels he is “owed” for City’s “wrong doings.”
Prosecution keeps pushing “whore” comment. Major denies making that comment and alleges that City is fabricating.
After this point, each side made their closing remarks. It was after that point that we — myself and another juror — were excused.
It is my personal opinion that the arresting officer, Officer Anger, was just doing his job. Major felt that he was wronged, that he was OWED, so he lashed back at anyone and everyone that he could. Luckily the jury saw to it that Officer Anger was not to blame and ruled in his favor on the counts pertaining to his defense.
However, they also ruled in favor of Major pertaining to the counts against the City of Birmingham. I read in the paper that he was awarded $500,000.
Had I stayed on the jury, I would have voiced my thoughts in the matter. Personally, I wouldn’t have given that asshole a dime! But, that wasn’t my choice … oh well, life goes on.
I hope the City appeals and wish Mr. Bentley luck. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with him after the trial was over. I told Mr. Bentley exactly what I thought about the case, the verdict, and the load of horseshit that the prosecution was feeding the jury. I’m sure Mr. Springer knew that many of the things he said offended me … from what I’m told, I was apparently giving him very dirty looks from time to time.
What can I say … I’m pretty transparent, and will usually, in one way or another, tell you exactly how I feel and/or what I think.