Breaking news: Gordon Wray found Not Guilty in death of Doug Caldwell

A jury has found Gordon Wray Not Guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide charges in the death of local cyclist and scientist Doug Caldwell last year.

The closing arguments ended around 1 pm today, and the jury announced they had a verdict less than an hour-and-a-half later.

More details later tonight.

13 comments

  1. Jim Lucas says:

    Bicyclists and pedestrian are not valued in our motor vehicle dominated society, so convicting a motorist of killing a bicyclist or a pedestrian is not likely to happen.

    • After the trial, my wife made a pretty profound observation. She wondered if the jury wouldn’t have given an entirely different verdict if Mr. Wray had mown down two thirteen year olds. The problem is actually that in a motor-vehicle dominated society, most have reason to be sympathetic with a driver rather than a bicyclist. Two of the jury selection questions should have been, Do you drive a car? Another, Are you an avid biker? Both of those issues would then potentially disqualify jurors. I wonder what the outcome would have been if the jury consisted of public transit users only. Furthermore, because everyone can imagine that the same misfortune could befall them as drivers, they are prone to sympathizing with the defendant. Unfortunately, juries are not to decide by exercising sympathy either with defendant or the victim. Their role is to be disinterested. Mr. Wray’s attorney said this is a tragic case. I would refer him and all of you to Aristotles’ classic definition of tragedy. In tragedy, it is the audience’s role to exercise sympathy and thus discover catharsis. Related to Greek theater, the jury is effectively playing the role of the Fates, not the audience. When the jury plays the role of sympathizer as well as judge, they do both poorly and ultimately prevent the possibility of both genuine social catharsis by turning human tragedy into the merely pathetic. Doug’s death was, classically speaking, pathetic. It should move us all to sorrow. Mr. Wray should have been the tragic victim. If you mow down an innocent bicyclist, you should not go unpunished. That any of us might do the same only means we can genuinely show sympathy and even compassion towards Mr. Wray. But that is not the role of jurors. It is the role of the larger society. If the Greeks were onto something in their understanding of tragedy and its essential connection to what it means to be genuinely human, and to live in a polis, then I would say that the outcome of the trial was not humanizing, neither for Doug, Mr. Wray, Los Angeles or the jury members involved. It only demonstrated confusion, which is, in the non-classical, more commonly vernacular sense, quite pathetic. By the way, I am a runner, not a biker. I live in Orange County, and exactly six months after my brother’s death, a Newport Beach cyclist, an Olympic trialist from Morocco, was mowed down by a driver on San Joaquin Hills Road. Though I consider myself a runner, I have always enjoyed riding, and road many times with my brother. In light of his death and my heightened awareness of fatalities to bikers, am now edgier about going onto the road than I was a a youth having watched Jaws and thinking of going into the ocean. When running becomes too much of a pain for my joints, I’ll be looking to biking as a natural alternative. Will bicyclists be more highly regarded sometime in the future? Does anyone want to start an organization called Runners for Bikers?

      • bikinginla says:

        Stephen, let me say first of all how sorry I am for your loss. I never met Doug, but from everything I’ve heard, he was a very well-loved man. I don’t know what I would do if something like that happened to my brothers or sister.

        I can’t argue with any of your insights, and am grateful for the lesson in Greek philosophy. I would have to agree that your brother’s death is pathetic; I always look for something positive in any situation, but try as I might, I can’t find it here.

        I am well familiar with the other case you mention; as difficult as it may be under the circumstances, try to remember that cases like this are actually pretty rare. An average of just 700 +/- cyclists are killed in this country every year, despite the millions of riders and 100s of millions of miles traveled each year. That said, one death is one too many. Especially when it happens to someone you love.

        As someone who has dealt with bad knees since the age of 14, I’ve found biking to be the ideal form of exercise, offering significant health benefits and enjoyment, without the joint strain of running. Hopefully you’re right, and we’ve turned the corner on respect for road users other than drivers.

        How about Runners, Bikers and Pedestrians for Everyone Who Isn’t Driving? From what I’ve seen, you guys face the same dangers we do.

        Let me know if you or anyone else in your family would like write something on here about Doug, how his loss has affected you, the trial, or anything else you want to get off your chest. I’ll be more than happy to turn over my blog to you for a day.

        • Thanks, BinLA. I do have a few more thoughts I’d like to share. I don’t know much about blogs but I am open to making a contribution. Please feel free to contact me at my email so you and I can correspond or I might share my phone number. I see my own email below as I write, but I don’t know what you can see. Let me know how we can get in touch.
          Cheers,

          • MrHoss says:

            Don’t let this guy blog. He will just write a 4 page essay about some stupid greek god.

            • Jim Lucas says:

              MrHoss has merely demonstrated his ignorance and lack of education. He is the one who should be kept off this blog.

            • Jim Lucas says:

              I have to wonder what MrHoss would write if it was his brother who was killed.

            • bikinginla says:

              I think that’s a fair question for all these people who have been attacking the victims in this case.

            • MrHoss says:

              I’m just going on how Stephan treats everyones opnions, like he is superior to everyone else. I am not attacking any victims. I treat people the way they treat me.

            • Jim Lucas says:

              MrHoss, Stephen Caldwell was very reasonable and considerate in his comments, especially considering that it was his brother that was killed. I wish that the same could be same for your comments, it cannot. I have re-read Stephen Caldwell’s comments, there was nothing at all in them to indicate that he felt superior to anyone else, though a less educated person could, because of ignorance, possibly take something in his comments to be beyond their understanding.

  2. John says:

    #1. Jury selection took over a day. The questions “Are you an avid cyclist or a cyclist?” was asked and those jurors were excused. Another question asked was “Have you had any negative experiences with bicyclist?” Those jurors were excused.

    #2 “Mow down a cyclist…” you make it sound like it was intentional. Do you think Mr. Wray woke up one day, and decided to go out and cause an accident?

    #3 If I accidentally killed someone in any kind of accident, I would wake up everyday with that thought in my head.

    #4 Cycling has risks. Jogging has risks. Motorcycling has risks. Off-roading has risks. Driving a car has risks. Stepping out of your house has risks.

    I’m sorry for your loss Stephan

    • John, I suspect you’re one of the jurors who served. Or sympathetic thereto. The only people who would be responding to my article are intent on preserving their judicial rationale. The great responsibility of jurors is to give judgment. As citizens, we have few grave responsibilities. One is electing public officials. Another is serving on juries. A third is to accept the social contract implicit in a society of laws. I can accept that my brother had a fair trial. The trial is a matter of process. But due process does not always result in substantive justice. There is an excellent line in “A Man for All Seasons” where Thomas More comments to the fanatical Roper regarding Roper’s avowal that he would cut down all the laws in England to capture the devil. Sir Thomas returns, and I paraphrase, “And after you have cut down all the laws, what would then protect you, Roper, all the laws then being cut down?” The laws to which More refers are those entailed in a society of the rule of law. They are the substance of procedural law. The devil (and I am using the term figuratively) is the antithesis of substantive good. Sir Thomas acknowledges that a society of laws cannot eradicate evil, but that the direct pursuit of justice apart from the rule of law leads to greater evil, not greater good. Thus, a trial can be fair but produce an unjust outcome. Justice apart from due process is perhaps a matter of divine jurisdiction, but it has no place in a society of laws such as ours. The ends do not justify the ends. But likewise, it is not so simple that the means justify the ends. The means merely result in the ends which we must wisely accept because the alternative is only a society such as Roper desired, barren of the elements which for the greater part serve for our protection. Unfortunately, when jurors fail to understand their proper role, they corrosively begin to undermine the system they were sworn to defend. As for your particular points: #1 failed to acknowledge that every driver has a bias to the extent that he or she could have done as Mr. Wray but for the grace of God; #2 presumes to have explored the vernacular use of “mow” in its connotative usage; #3 fails to distinguish between psychological guilt and legal guilt; #4 is just plain silly. Of course everything has risks. The issue isn’t about risk, the issue is about the moral causes entailed in risk. I am an investment advisor and my clients understand reasonable risk. Bernie Madoff is not part of the reasonable risk scenario. And if an advisor, by negligence, fails to properly evaluate a client’s financial picture thus placing him in investments that consequently incur substantial loss that the client can ill afford, the advisor may well lose his license. I trust you appreciate the fact that your own portfolio is protected by certain laws. If you lose your shirt financially someday by a licensed advisor, who has been granted his license under certain stipulations of compliance, and he says, “Hey, it was just an accident. I just wasn’t paying attention,” I wonder if you’ll be as kind to him and with the shrug of your shoulders say, “Hey, everything has its risks.” And by the way. The only way the defense could cast doubt on Mr. Evans testimony that he was riding the line, was by claiming that he, an experienced, veteran cyclist, must have been in the number one lane, swerving in front of a car, which if you have any knowledge of cyclists of either Doug’s or Mr. Evans caliber is not only absurd but inconceivable. Indeed, it is worse than absurd. Mr. Wray’s lawyer claimed in his closing arguments that Mr. Evans must have an ulterior motive for contradicting the defense’s claim regarding such swerving, else why would Mr. Evans so adamantly insist on what is entirely logical in light of how experienced bicyclists ride. But the defense pressed the point to its logical conclusion by suggesting that Mr. Evans is either trying to lighten the burden of his own guilty conscience or is seeking financial gain in a civil suit. By so turning the tables on the victim in order to acquit the culpable party is not an issue of procedural justice. It is an issue of substantive evil. You, John, are siding with a person who was not only responsible for another’s death, but who has done his best to avoid accepting responsibility for another’s death and, I would assume, for making proper restitution as well. The tables turn easily in this case. Would you be entirely surprised to discover that it is Mr. Wray, not Mr. Evans who has the ulterior motive for mounting the defense that he did. Does he, not Mr. Evans, have a problem dealing with moral responsibility? Does he have an ulterior financial motive? And now, in the court of your own moral law, where reasonable doubts inevitably enter, perhaps as you read this article, perhaps as you sleep at night, perhaps as you wonder why you have such an emphatic need to defend the jury’s verdict, that Mr. Wray has taken his crime beyond it’s original tragic occurance to an entirely intentional level of self-protection. That, John is the very devil that Thomas More despised but was willing to allow a certain level of freedom in a society of laws. The tables turn easily John, and I would suggest you reevaluate who side you want to be sitting on.

  3. Paul Im says:

    Very sad news.

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