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9/29/2010
Trial highlights: House testimony

The first day of the trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, OOIDA member plaintiff Stephen K. House took the witness stand. House is an owner-operator from Springdale, WA. Here are some highlights of House’s testimony. He was questioned by OOIDA legal counsel Dan Cohen and cross-examined by state’s counsel Marsha Eldot Devine.

Direct examination of OOIDA member plaintiff, owner-operator Stephen K. House by OOIDA legal counsel Dan Cohen of The Cullen Law Firm regarding House’s interaction with members of the Minnesota State Patrol on May 10, 2008.

Mr. Cohen: Have you come to form an understanding as to how Mr. Norton and Mr. Ullmer used this checklist on the night of May 10th, 2008?
Mr. House: How they used it?
Mr. Cohen: Yes, or what purpose they used it for?
Mr. House: Well, they obviously used it to put me out of service if that’s what you mean.

Mr. Cohen: Mr. Ullmer writes, “Driver sleeps with his eyes open when co-driver is driving.” Do you sleep with your eyes open, sir?
Mr. House: No, I do not.
Mr. Cohen: Do you know anyone who does?
Mr. House: No.

Mr. Cohen: Mr. Ullmer told you when you got to the door that this was going to be no big deal. What actually happened at the end of this interview?
Mr. House: He shut me down.
Mr. Cohen: When you say shut you down, what do you mean?
Mr. House: He put me out of service.
Mr. Cohen: And did that come as a surprise to you?
Mr. House: Yes, it did.
Mr. Cohen: And what transpired when he told you he was putting you out of service? Did you have a reaction or say something to him?
Mr. House: Yes, I said I didn’t believe what they were doing here was legal.
Mr. Cohen: And what did he say?
Mr. House: He kind of leaned forward in his chair and he says, “What are you going to do to me about it?”

Mr. Cohen: During the course of the questioning with Mr. Ullmer, did he make any body movements or physical movements of any sort that caught your attention?
Mr. House: Yes. Most of the time that I was there he was yawning and stretching like he was about to fall asleep.

Mr. Cohen: And did you make any remarks about his yawning actions?
Mr. House: Yes, I did. I asked him, I said, “Who is driving you home tonight?”
Mr. Cohen: Go ahead.
Mr. House: And he says, “I'm driving myself.” And I said, “I don’t feel you should be because I feel you're too tired to drive.” I said, “You could go to sleep and come across the median and hit me head on.” And he says, “Well, I’m not the one that’s being tested here.”

Mr. Cohen: Was this a big thing to you, what happened to you?
Mr. House: Yes, it was a big thing to me.
Mr. Cohen: Why?
Mr. House: Because when they do stuff like that, it goes against your records. And the people that I haul for, the brokers that I haul for will absolutely not load you. They will just flat turn you right down if you have got a bad safety record.

Mr. Cohen: Did Mr. Ullmer or Mr. Norton ever inform you of any Constitutional rights you had at any time during this interrogation?
Mr. House: No, they did not.
Mr. Cohen: Did they ever inform you that you had any rights to privacy against answering these questions?
Mr. House: No.
Mr. Cohen: Did they ever tell you you had the right to suspend the questioning, get your documents and proceed down the road?
Mr. House: No.
Mr. Cohen: Did they give you a citation for violating any traffic laws?
Mr. House: No.

Mr. Cohen: Why are you here? What do you want to see happen?
Mr. House: I would like to see this get changed, because it is not just for me, but it is for all of the other drivers out here going through the same thing. And plus my sons, they drive, and I would like to do something for them, too, so they will have a way to make a living for their families.
Mr. Cohen: You want this practice stopped?
Mr. House: Yes.
Mr. Cohen: You want it stopped for good?
Mr. House: Yes.

Cross-examination of witness House by state’s attorney Marsha Eldot Devine regarding House’s interaction with members of the Minnesota State Patrol on May 10, 2008.

Ms. Devine: Now, it is accurate, is it not, that when you were out on the roadway there was a sign that said the weigh station was open?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: And it is because that sign was there that you knew that you needed to drive into the weigh station, correct?
Mr. House: Correct.
Ms. Devine: And there were a bunch of officers, if you will, that motioned you to come in?
Mr. House: Well, I came in and they motioned me to go to the bypass lane.
Ms. Devine: Do you remember whether that was to the right or to the left?
Mr. House: It was to the right.
Ms. Devine: So, you pulled in, right?
Mr. House: Right.
Ms. Devine: And there was a stop sign there?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: And you stopped?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: And I think you began to take off, was your testimony, when you didn't see somebody there?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: And was it your expectation that when you pulled into the weigh station that you could just leave without any inspection at all?
Mr. House: In the bypass lane, normally that is what you do.

Ms. Devine: And you are also aware that out-of-service orders can be issued sometimes, right?
Mr. House: Not for red eyes, but I guess if your vehicle is not up to par, your logbook is not up to par, yes.

Ms. Devine: And as we sit here today, you really don’t know whether they relied on anything on that checklist or something else in making a decision to put you out-of-service, right?
Mr. House: They told me they were going by their checklist there, so I assume that is what it was.

Ms. Devine: You have been on the highway many miles, correct?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: And I take it that you wouldn’t want to see a fatigued driver who was impaired – his driving ability or alertness was impaired – driving next to you, correct?
Mr. House: Correct.
Ms. Devine: You would want the state that you were in to do something about that, wouldn't you?
Mr. House: Not the way they do it.

Redirect examination of witness House by attorney Cohen regarding House’s interaction with members of the Minnesota State Patrol on May 10, 2008.

Mr. Cohen: Did they tell you that you had a right to consult with a lawyer before answering their questions?
Mr. House: No, they did not.
Mr. Cohen: Would you have refused to answer their questions if you had known what they were really up to?
Mr. House: Definitely.

Mr. Cohen: Do you see a difference between your expectation of privacy with respect to what your wife says about you and what cops ask you?
Mr. House: A big difference.
Mr. Cohen: And what’s that difference?
Mr. House: I don’t feel they have the right to be asking me about things like, you know, how many times I go to the bathroom. How many, you know, what kind of material I read. And I don’t feel about my [ill] niece and stuff, that I couldn’t drive the truck because I was worried about my niece and stuff like that, I don’t think it’s none of their business.

Redirect examination of witness House by attorney Devine regarding House’s interaction with members of the Minnesota State Patrol on May 10, 2008.

Ms. Devine: Have you ever driven through Indiana?
Mr. House: Yes.
Ms. Devine: Are you aware that Indiana was using a checklist at one time?
Mr. House: At one time.
Ms. Devine: And --
Mr. House: But they quit.

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