Defense Direct Examination of Whitney Grey

  • 1. Would you please state your full name for the court?
  • Whitney Grey.
  • 2. How old are you Whitney? I'm 24.
  • 3. Where do you live? I live at 230 So. Washington in Thunderbird, IL. In order to save money.
  • 4. How long have you lived here?
  • For all of my life.
  • 5. Are you still in school Whitney?
  • Yes, I'm enrolled at a Thunderbird Community College.
  • 6. What are studying? I'm studying criminal justice.
  • 7. Do you have plans for after college?
  • Yes, I would like to become a fire investigator.
  • 8. For any special reason?
  • Yes. I had wanted to become a firefighter, but I have pretty severe asthma. I don’t think I’d be able to pass the physical. But I’d like to serve in a fire department somehow, and I think fire investigation may be both interesting and a way to give back to the community.
  • 9. I want to come back to that idea of giving back to the community in a moment, but first I want to ask you about your employment: Besides going to school, do you also have a job?
  • Well, I did have a job until the fire. I worked for over 6 years at the Bellows and O'Brien Pub.
  • 10. Who owns the pub?
  • Ashton Bellows and Lane O'Brien own it together.
  • 11. Did you know Mr. Bellows or Mr. O’ Brien before you were employed at the pub? Yes. Ashton and I were pretty good friends before I got the job. I had heard of Lane, but I didn't know him that well.
  • 12. How did you get the job? Oh I applied just like anyone else, and both of the owners interviewed me.
  • 13. How did the interview go?
  • Very well I thought – mostly because I got the job and they seemed very satisfied with my work for over six years.
  • 14. How often did you work at the pub? As much as I possibly can be. I pay for school myself. I’m there whenever I’m not at school or sleeping.
  • 15. What were your job duties? Well after six years I did just about everything. I served; I cleaned; I mowed the lawn. Sometimes I cooked on the grill.
  • 16. Did you like it?
  • The cleaning and handy work wasn't always so glamorous, but I liked seeing some of my friends hanging at the pub and I got to socialize with them. It was low-stress, so I could focus on schoolwork. I couldn't ask for a better job.
  • 17. Did some of your duties include outside work? [Might get a leading].
  • Oh yes, I sometimes mowed the small lawn area. Sometimes Ashton did it. I would stop here on the lawnmower issue. The statement re: fingerprints it TOTAL hearsday (pg 10) and should be kept out of prosecution case.
  • 18. What kind of a lawn mower did you use?
  • It’s my own – a gas powered mower I borrow from my parents.
  • 19. How did you re-fuel the mower when needed?
  • I have a gas can I carry in the back of my car. When we needed gas, I got it.
  • 20. Whitney, I want to go back to your earlier testimony about “giving back to the community.” You’ve heard some testimony today about something you told Mr. Bellows and Mr. O’Brien in your initial interview for the job at the pub – some facts about an earlier time in your life involving a fire. Do you remember this conversation?
  • Of course. I told them about having to do community service because I lit a field fire when I was 14. It’s something I’ve told everyone I’ve ever interviewed with.
  • 21. Why’s that?
  • Because I always want to start a job honestly and with a clean slate. And frankly, I didn’t know if a juvenile record would show up on a background check, so I figured I had better disclose it right up front.
  • 22. What was your reason for starting the fires as a teenager?
  • I was young, I made bad decisions. I was in with the wrong crowd.
  • 23. Have you been convicted of anything in the ten years since then? No, I've changed my life and my friends since then. I learned my lesson – just like a lot of kids. HOW ABOUT "HAVE YOU BEEN IN ANY SORT OF TROUBLE WHATSOEVER SINCE YOU WERE A YOUNG TEENAGER?
  • 24. In what ways? After apologizing to the entire community, I went back to school, got my GED, learned how to work my problems out in a positive way, became more social with my friends, family and neighbors, and my life has been going pretty well since then – at least until this point.
  • 25. Ok. Let’s turn now to the pub itself. Can you describe the layout? The pub is in a beautiful old building. It has the main floor, a basement, a second floor, and a balcony.
  • 26. Are there windows?
  • Yes – there are windows….
  • WE MAY WANT TO USE THE DRAWING EXHIBIT HERE – WE’LL DISCUSS WHETHER AND HOW.
  • 27. What’s in the basement ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE BASEMENT?
  • Ashton and Lane have their offices down there. The pub’s paper goods are stored down there also. Also, Lane has been using the basement to refinish some family antiques that he intended to use in the pub.
  • 28. How often do you go in the basement?
  • Usually never. With my asthma, I can hardly breathe down there.
  • 29. Why’s that?
  • Because of the toxic fumes from the furniture stripping stuff.
  • 30. Does your asthma limit you in other ways? I can't stand too close to fires and I have to watch out for certain types of smells that might trigger my asthma.
  • 31. But you’ve heard the fire marshal today testify that he sees you at most of the fires here in town. Is that correct? Yes it is. I feel like I can learn a lot about fires from watching them closely.
  • 32. Why would you need to learn a lot about fires?
  • Well, as I said before, I am studying to become a fire investigator. One of the best ways to learn about fires is to go see all the different types there can be and watch other investigators in action.
  • 33. So Whitney, were you working at the pub on the evening of July 4, 2010? Yes – July 4th is always a big night until the fireworks start. We expected a big crowd and had one.
  • 34. What were some of your duties that night? The usual. Serving beer, cleaning the tables and floors, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms. We also tried something special that night, and grilled hot dogs and brats.
  • 35. On a barbecue?
  • Yes – a charcoal grill.
  • 36. Where was the grill located?
  • Outside, behind the building.
  • 37. Do you remember if the windows were open or closed that night?
  • All the windows had been open – it had been a beautiful day.
  • 38. What happened at the pub after everyone left? We called it a night and began closing up. I was pretty tired so I was the first to leave.
  • 39. Around what time did you leave? It was pretty close to midnight when I left.
  • 40. Did you close the windows before you left?
  • I think I did, but I can’t be certain – my cell phone rang right as I was closing up, so I may have been distracted.
  • 41. Was the charcoal grill cool by the time you left?
  • We closed the lid and shut the vents like usual, but the grill generally stays hot for a while.
What time did you leave the pub?
  • 42. What did you do after you left?
  • I went home and went to sleep.
  • 43. Did you talk to anyone before you went to sleep? No, I was too tired.
  • 44. Around what time were you notified that the pub was on fire? It must have been around 4:40 or something in the morning. [HOW IS HE NOTIFIED? DO WE KNOW?] WATCH THIS LINE OF QUESTIONING. Just say sleeping heard sirens and followed them. Horrified to find out pub on fire.
  • 45. What was your first reaction as you heard that the pub was burning down? I raced to the fire. I knew that place was a tinderbox and I was praying the fire department could contain the fire quickly.
  • 46. When you arrived at the pub, who else was there? What seemed to be the entire Thunderbird fire department and of course Lane O'Brien and Ashton Bellows. It was pretty chaotic.
  • 47. Did you talk with anyone?
  • Yes. I talked to Ashton. I was pretty miserable and he has always been a good friend.
  • 48. You’ve heard some testimony today about how you smiled while watching the fire. Do you recall smiling?
  • I do. I said something to Ashton like, “I really needed this job. I think you’re the only person in this town who would hire me.”
  • Why did you smile?
  • Well, I was trying to stop myself from crying. And Ashton came over and said it would all be ok. That’s when I smiled – he’s an amazing friend and it was a really bad situation. Sometimes that’s what you do – try to smile in the face of what seems at the time like a disaster. It looks like people have really misinterpreted that smile!
  • 51. You’ve also heard some testimony today about an insurance policy on the pub -- did you know anything about an insurance policy? I had no idea.
  • 52. Do you know if you are a beneficiary of any insurance policy on the pub? Not that I’m aware of.
  • 53. Are you in great need of money? PRIOR TO THIS FIRE WERE YOU IN GREAT NEED OF MONEY?
  • I don’t know what you mean by “great need.” I asked Ashton for an advance on my salary to help cover my college expenses for the next semester. With the recession, I didn’t want my parents to have to cover the shortfall between my income and my expenses. [The answer makes it look like the attorney asked a bad/confusing question. Might want to re-work.]
  • 54. Did Ashton give you the advance?
  • No, he said that money was tight.
WERE YOU UPSET ABOUT THE DENIAL? NOT REALLY, I JUST THOUGHT IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK.....
  • 55. Whitney, did you benefit in any way from the loss of the pub?
  • Absolutely not. I lost my job and now my reputation is perhaps permanently damaged.
WHITNEY, ON JULY 4th or 5th, 2010, WERE YOU EVER IN THE BASEMENT OF THE PUB

DID YOU RETURN TO THE PUB AFTER LEAVING WORK ON THE NIGHT OF JULY 4 (not till I heard sirens...)

ON JULY 4th or 5th WERE YOU EVER IN THE LOFT OF THE PUB?

HAVE YOU EVER, IN YOUR LIFE, TOUCHEDTHE COFFEEMAKER OR THE STRIP GUN IN THE BASEMENT?

HAVE YOU EVER SPREAD INFLAMMATORY MATERIALS IN PUB?
dramatic pause.........

WHITNEY DID YOU HAVE ANYTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THIS TRAGIC FIRE?
looking balefully but firmly at the trier of fact..............

No sir (m'am) I did not.

  • No further questions your Honor.