FLIP THE SCRIPT
When Luke Ellis gets a case, the first thing he does is tear it apart
Q: I understand you pride yourself on
changing the narrative of a case. What
exactly does that mean?
A: You really have to start from the
beginning, look at the evidence and
take everything apart, because a lot of
times the true narrative of the case is
not what’s apparent in the police report.
I worked a year ago or so on a case
[involving] a young woman. She was 18.
The bus was late. It was night. It was
raining. She ran across the street against
the light near a crosswalk. The light was
green for the bus.
There was a grainy video on the bus that
captured a small portion of this. You see
a dark figure suddenly in front of the bus.
The bus driver screams and runs over my
client. The police put 100 percent fault
on the girl. It’s probably a case everybody
would look at and say, “Well, there’s no
liability from the bus company.”
The brother came to see us; there
was something that didn’t feel right
about the case, about why the girl [Jung
Hye Lee] would move out to the street
like that. She was in Stanford [Medical
Center]; I really couldn’t talk to her for
almost a full year. She had horrible
injuries—amputation, a crushed pelvis—
just really a devastating, catastrophic
injury. The mom, who brought the
children here [from Korea] at a very
young age, was a helper in a Korean
restaurant, waiting tables and preparing
food. They [were] well, well below
the poverty line. They were wonderful
people: hardworking, honest. I could tell
that. [Jung Hye] Lee, she was working at
a yogurt shop, trying to support herself;
volunteering at a hospice and going to
college to be a nurse.
It turned out that there wasn’t just this
one tape. There were five or six different
views. The police looked at, it turned out,
5 percent—less than that—of what was
available. I got with experts and we looked
at the film. The camera was not placed at
the driver’s eye.
We basically were able to recreate [the
scene] by having somebody run across on a
dark night with rain at that very intersection.
We had somebody who was the same
height, weight, dress as Miss Lee do exactly
what she did. [In our re-creation] it wasn’t
“our client” jumping out with two seconds
to spare; “our client” was visible for eight
seconds, clearly trying to catch this bus that
should have stopped at that stop.
Back to your question about changing
the narrative. It suddenly became, “What
did the bus driver see and what were
the bus driver’s obligations?” I went
to the site of that accident maybe 100
times, in addition to the film, just sitting
there watching the bus, watching the
people, talking to people, meeting with
my investigator out there, meeting with
experts. It turns out that bus stop was
across the street from the lights. A lot of
the trees had overgrown the bus stop.
Nobody stood on the bus stop side,
because if you stood on the bus stop side,
there were no lights. There were trees; it
was right next to the freeway; it felt weird,
particularly for a young woman there
at night. That bus driver, she would see
people coming across the street. They
would wait on the lighted side by the
restaurant and [then] come across the
street to the bus stop.
So we were able to change the story
suddenly to, “Here’s a young gal that just
started a job. It’s night. She’s nervous. The
INTERVIEW BY BETH TAYLOR