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A Dramatic Entrance
September 15, 2008 - Joe Gorman
All eyes were on Joe Kaluza when he testified Monday in the trial of the couple accused of staging an accident to rob him in March, which left him paralyzed from the neck down after he was shot in the neck.
That is, all eyes except for those at the defense table. When Kaluza was finished and his wheelchair went past the table the defendants and two defense lawyers were using, they made sure they were studying their notes or writing on their legal pads.
I must confess I did not catch how the jury reacted to Kaluza, because I was riveted by him once he entered the courtroom. I never took my eyes off of him as he spoke in a strong, steady voice over the hum of the ventilator he must use to help him breathe.
This is a strange case in the fact that is the one of the few times a jury gets to see the direct result of the crime: A husband and father in the prime of his life now reduced to never walking again and occupying a wheelchair for the rest of his life who needs help to breathe.
It's not like you can wheel out the body in front of a jury before a murder case, or bring in a mangled car in an accident case. Seeing the direct result of the defendant's actions has to play on the minds of the jurors when they go in to deliberate.
Assistant Prosecutor Kasey Shidel also did not mince words as he addressed the jury during his opening argument. He called the crime and the defendants ``terroristic' and ``brutal' and ``henious' and that Kaluza lost his freedom to move for the rest of his life because Taran Helms and Hattie Gilbert wanted a ``measly' $306.
Kaluza's presence is unmistakable: He is in the back of the courtroom, the hum of the machinery that is keeping him alive a soundtrack in the background of the proceedings. If you're a lawyer, how do you argue against that?
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