Friends and Family

Sorry to leave you, my readers hanging for two years. Writing this takes a lot of time, but you have convinced me that I should see it to the end. I will try for one post a month. Just read through, noticed many typos for which I appreciate your patience, and now, I dig out my notes.

Friday begins with our usual gathering in the jury room. Conversations flow, we’re careful to not discuss the case, which is what we have in common, but we can now discuss our lives easily. Once again Larry is the last one in, but it’s not late, and Wesley is pleased with us. He gives us enthusiastic support for our ability to remember our juror numbers as we line up to go down the narrow stair to courtroom.

We walk past the standing court, the attorneys have gone to paler colors – I guess that’s Friday casual, Schmidt’s jacket is grey, but it’s dove grey not slate grey (yes, I love to read the names of colors in the LL Bean catalog). John is wearing a neatly pressed blue shirt.

In the court, past the rail are few scruffy guys. I figure they are the types who hang out in courtrooms because they don’t really have anywhere else to be.

Wesley calls us to order with the ancient words and Steven is sworn in. He’s one of the scruffy guys whom I had assumed were court watchers.

Schmidt begins her examination of this witness.

Steven knew John at Bridgewater, he was another patient there. Steven now lives in the Homeless Veterans Shelter which is just about across the street from the court house. I’ve often walked past that place and felt shame that we have people who fought in wars, and now are homeless. They hang out in front smoking, and panhandling. But, my feelings about homeless veterans don’t make Steven a sympathetic witness. He testifies about how helpful John was to him in working his program at Bridgewater, and how he looks forward to supporting John in being a model citizen once he is released.

If I were Schmidt I would have foregone a character witness if the best available were Steven, and Juarez apparently felt the same way, declining to cross examine.

We move on to Dr. Leonard Bard. No difficulty spelling those names. He’s kind of a bear, not a teddy bear, and not that he’s shaggy, more that he takes up space and is very sure of himself. After he is sworn in his CV is entered into evidence.

Schmidt establishes that she has worked with Bard before, and also establishes that Bard has examined clients of hers, and has declared them sexually dangerous. She asks “and did you get paid for those reports?” He responds with a simple “yes”. Schmidt is trying to prevent us from thinking “you can pay an expert to testify the way you want”.

After establishing that Bard is open minded, she asks if he examined John. The questions don’t have much drama, but Bard can deliver a lot with a single word. When the question is “did you reach a diagnosis” his answer is a simple “no”. Although one word, it’s a powerful one – the heads in the jury box lean slightly forward. I don’t hear the gasp of surprise which occurs in court on TV, but we do feel surprise. Schmidt gives him some room to elaborate on his simple “no” and Bard shows how he ruled out some diagnoses, noting that deviant sexual arousal was absent.

Schmidt seems to think less is more with this one, he’s made his point. She has his report entered into evidence, and hands him over to Juarez.

Juarez doesn’t have much to work with here, so she repeats the rape story, with questions such as “did not hitting someone over the head with a rock indicate deviant sexual arousal?” She’s just trying to make sure the horrible first offense, which is not on trial stays in our mind. It is a transparent trick, and I had come to expect better of her. It’s also a convoluted sentence.

We’re excused for lunch, and I get a nice walk through Beacon Hill after enjoying my salad.

When we come back the court room there is a pretty African American woman sitting outside the rail. I wonder if she is the prostitute from the Third Offense. She comes forward and is sworn in, with a delicate voice she agrees to the oath. So this is Lisa, the girl friend. Not what I expected, very well educated (two master’s degrees), soft spoken, would impress you if you met her at a party.

By now the sun has moved enough lower that it’s not shining through the window behind the witness. It is much easier to see facial expressions. On the bench Judge MacLeod seems more comfortable, the attorneys are objecting less, and the rhythm is working. I squirm a little in my chair, it’s getting uncomfortable to keep sitting, even though we get lots of breaks, and just had lunch. I tighten and release my glutes to give myself some movement. I know that my attention is critical, I must be evaluating every piece of evidence, but it’s getting longer and longer.

Lisa describes her relationship with John, they had been dating for five months, when John had moved in with her in 2006. When asked how she is holding up with John in Bridgewater she spoke about love. She sounded like a World War II soldier’s wife waiting for the boys to come home. I found myself wondering if there was DSM code for attraction to incarcerated sex offenders.

Schmidt asked about how things would work when John is released – clever move, she said “when” not “if” – plant it as a sure thing. Lisa describes a vision of Pleasantville, John and she living happily ever after, he’ll find a job, and they will maintain a home – too old for children, but that’s OK, they have each other. Again I start wondering how anchored in reality she is.

Juarez again doesn’t seem to have much to get on cross examination. She can’t afford to pick on Lisa, because that would arouse our sympathy. She tries a few questions about the stability of the relationship, but Lisa is pretty unflappable.

We’re dismissed early because the final witness for the petitioner isn’t available until the next day. I scurry back to the office, and make sure the e-mails are returned. I’m physically tired by the time I’m on the subway.

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Dr. Joss keeps it interesting

Dr. Joss is led in by the court officer, and stands in the middle of the courtroom to be sworn in.

This guy looks the part, 60 something wire rimmed glasses, white mustache. He looks like he was born in his jacket and tie, and probably wears them on weekends saying “I’m just more comfortable this way”. His CV is entered into evidence.

He greets Juarez with a smile, and throws one to the jury box. I could see him getting me to spill my guts, an insightful “why do you think you did that?” would get me to some amazing insight about a grudge I’m bearing from 1972.

His PhD is from SUNY Buffalo, but he carries the arrogance of a Harvard man, he’s never met anyone as smart as him, and proof of that is that people often have different opinions.

He responds to every question with confidence, and elaboration.

Juarez asks “did you perform any actuarial studies to evaluate John?”

Of course the answer is “yes, I did” – this little dance is like saying “I hear it is going to rain”, we all know where it is going, but they have got to follow the steps.

“And, what actuarial tool did you use?”

Wait, wait let me guess “The Static 99R”

“And what was John’s score?”

“He scored a 6” Dr. Joss is getting tired of waiting for the questions, he wants to expound, he’s got this down, and he’s ready so he continues without waiting for the question “this puts him in the category of highly likely to re-offend.”

Juarez doesn’t spend too long on the Static 99 – she knows Schmidt has skill pulling that apart. But she does let Dr. Joss get to the diagnosis. “Did you develop a diagnosis for John?”

Joss never sticks to one word – it could be “yes”, but from him it is “Yes, I did” with head motion, the chin is lifted a tiny bit during the comma between the “yes” and the “I did”. This time he waits for the next question.

“And what was that diagnosis?”

We wait to hear “Paraphelia NOC”, but Joss has a surprise for us. “Sexual Sadism.”

To show why the sadism diagnosis, Joss describes John’s hitting each of the women in the 1982 incidents. They were hit with a rock, and tied up. Joss tells us about a babysitter with whom John would play ‘captor’. I sure hope my fantasies and games from being 8 years old never make it to a witness stand. Joss adds a note from the Bridgewater files about a staff member who was leaving, John liked her and said “I’d like to tie you up and keep you here”. I’m fairly sure I’ve said similar things to friends whose company I was enjoying.

Then Joss gets to the stun gun in the car. Everyone has said this gun was for defense, after John had been robbed, but Joss wants us to think of this as another sign of the sadism.

Joss does nothing to destroy my reasonable doubt, he adds a new diagnosis to the mix, and proves his diagnosis with facts that can all be explained in other ways. Juarez leaves him to Schmidt’s hands.

Schmidt’s walk to the podium is quick and eager, she doesn’t drop her glasses or papers, but it’s a near miss. Glasses on, microphone adjusted, and big smile. She’s ready to have fun.

She pulls us through the Static 99 – once again making the psychologist point out ways in which it is not a relevant tool in this case.

She attacks the relevance of the stun gun as evidence of the sadism pointing out that John never used it. Joss explains that because the prostitute had agreed to the conduct in question the use of the stun gun was not necessary. Wait a second Joss – if John’s a sadist, wouldn’t he be using the gun just for the fun of it not because he needs to?

With a firm “No further questions your honor” Schmidt walks back to the defense table much more organized and deliberate than her approach to the podium. Can Juarez save this witness on rebuttal? It’s getting late in the day.

Juarez strides to the stand, and asks Joss to define sadism. We learn that it is involves sexual excitement from suffering, including humiliation of the victim. I don’t know where she hoped to go with this, perhaps she’s playing the odds, that this will reach some of the jury.

That makes it a day, a long one, but I’ve still a few miles to go before I sleep, another dash across downtown, and back to my desk for an hour of putting out fires. Fortunately, there are no real ones, and I’m on the Subway by 6 PM.

 

 

Dr. Johnson, I presume

The routine is getting pretty normal – after a little work cut the best diagonal across downtown Boston.   Since the city is older than the right angle, things aren’t square – and you can often cut through buildings to walk the hypotenuse, cutting two minutes.  I didn’t need those two minutes, still made it to the jury room before 9 with lunch bag in hand.  The usual early birds were there, and Larry brought us pamphlets about ArtsBoston – he’s the perfect arts promoter, comfortably working every crowd he gets.

Wesley’s another good crowd worker; he gets a new audience for his jokes every few days, and has had the opportunity to develop his delivery today’s joke – “I’m an atheist, I swear to God”.

This morning the attorney’s blazers didn’t match. One was grey and one navy blue, but still, powerful and serious, and John, big surprise, a perfectly pressed blue shirt.  I start to wonder about his money – he’s been living in Bridgewater and unable to work, who is paying Schmidt?  Is Public Defender money available?  I sort of doubt it as he is not accused of a crime. Is his family helping him?  Does he have a trust fund? If I had a brother in this place would I help with this expense?  Maybe those few people in the court room are his family.

The next witness sworn in is Dr. Angela Johnson.  She’s wearing a suit that looks borrowed, or bought from Goodwill, nothing wrong with it, but fashion isn’t her focus. She’s got a pile of folders, and walks quickly across the room. The casting director should look for “overworked bureaucrat at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, resenting the time you are taking of hers.”  I expect her to say “Yeah, sure, whatever” when sworn in, but she’s not going to risk contempt.

So, Juarez, what are you going to do with this one?  Not much, Dr. Johnson’s credentials are entered into evidence. She’s a member of the community access board, the state body which determines if Bridgewater residents can go back into the community. She is here because John has appealed the decision of that board.

Dr. Johnson’s PsyD has a concentration in forensics.  She went Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology to solve or prevent crimes, not to become a therapist.  Once again I am astounded by the variety of things people do, and why they are interested in them.

She doesn’t help Juarez much, one syllable answers with hostility behind them.

On cross examination, Schmidt has more fun with Johnson. She asks confusing questions, then apologizes for being confusing. It is all an act, Schmidt does not do anything by accident.  One question asks about the other members of the Community Access Board including Dr. Ann Johnson.  Schmidt asks a question about whether Dr. Johnson disagreed. Dr. Angela Johnson looks puzzled then spits out “you mean Dr. Ann Johnson?”

“Oh yes, that was confusing, you’re Dr. Johnson too, Dr. Angela Johnson, sorry it was confusing”. Schmidt does flustered well.  She throws hypothetical questions in quick succession.

“Dr. Johnson are you familiar with an article by Frances First ‘Paraphelia NOC Non-Consent not ready for the courtroom?”

“Yes, I am familiar with it”

“And does not this article state that use of this diagnosis in committals is a fundamental misreading of the original intent of the DSM-IV”

“I would have to review the article to respond to that”

Schmidt turns to the judge and asks “may I approach the witness your honor?”

On receiving the nod she strides to the stand, and presents the article – she has kindly highlighted the phrase in question, leaving Dr. Johnson with the article.

Schmidt repeats the question, and Dr. Johnson must respond “yes, it does say that”

Schmidt then gets Johnson to confirm the unreliable nature of the testing tools.  The questions consist largely of making a statement such as “Is it not true that XYZ’s article in this journal shows that Inter rater reliability for the diagnosis Paraphelia NOS non-consent is only 36 percent?”.  More trips to the stand to show Dr. Johnson the article.   Dr. Johnson confirms that the article says that. Juarez jumps up a few times, but her heart doesn’t seem in it, she’s overruled a lot.

When Juarez comes to rebut the cross examination she just wants one statement, it is nothing new, but she wants to make sure we hear it in a number of different voices “is John likely to reoffend?”

She gets her “yes”, and Johnson is permitted to gather her documents and flee.

 

The Belle Continues to Ring

Returning at 9 AM is a late hour for me, I’m normally at my desk at 8 having been to the Y – so, getting up at the same time allowed me to keep my clients addicted to my services (and I can’t afford to let them think they could live without me!), and dash across downtown to the courthouse in time to report.  All that suffers is my health, and that’ll be back.

Second day of the trial finds us moving around the jury room changing our chairs, chatting more loosely. Susan (the retired teacher) is getting quieter – she’s still got her good book in front of her, but is doing crossword puzzles, I learn that Margaret is a medical examiner, never met one of those before – she’s chatting with Roy (the young un, who works as a cook) about skateboards and music, they both know a lot about each. If this were a party I was hosting I’d be wondering how I succeeded in assembling such a compatible group – and how I would get them  to stop chatting and move to the table and take their seats.  Wesley peeks in but we’re not late yet.  We figure out together that it is Larry, the artist who is late, and then he breezes in, complaining of the Orange Line.

Wesley has assigned the duty of telling the court we are assembled to Lauren, she’s a perky marketing type, also over 40, but someone who you notice.  It’s a valuable trait in sales types – she’s not provocative or a beauty queen, but she makes eye contact readily, and approaches the world with a smile. I found myself wanting to get to know her better. Lauren takes on her appointed duty pulling the string beside the door and then lifting her hands in a Ta Da gesture.

Wesley appears and we line up in our orderly fashion.  The courthouse had the same decorator as my elementary school (or lack of decorator), and a similar institutional feel – lining up seems fairly normal there although it is not a behavior I often engage in.

Down the stairs, past John, then his attorney, then Juarez, and into our seats.  We await Wesley calling us to order “Hear Ye Hear Ye, this court is now is session, the honorable Bonnie MacLeod Presiding, all those having business before her draw near and ye shall be heard, God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and this Honorable Court. You may be seated”.  He recites his script with no change in character, it is slightly joking playing the part which has been played for hundreds of years.  That may add something, it’s not magic and mysterious to him, he does this every day.

To John, it’s not magic or mysterious either, he’s been here before, but he is relying on us randomly selected people to return his freedom.  And the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are relying on us to evaluate whether he can safely be one of them. To me, it is magic and mysterious, how can we  possibly be entrusted with such responsibility?

We take our seats, the clerk announces the name and numbers of the case, and Dr. Belle returns to the stand.

We’re brought back to the U-Conn events.  My initial problem with understanding why these are crimes isn’t dissipating. John was carrying “interventions” from the treatment center; he’s got an ammonia capsule which he can sniff to make an unpleasant sensation.  Belle presents that John failed to use the intervention although he had it with him.  My doubt flares big, why should he be using that?  He’s not raping women, he’s not getting close to raping them, he is offering them rides, and when three of them accept, he’s turning around and bringing them back to the campus.

Then Belle gets into the rape kit.  OK, that’s kind of creepy, John has in the car rope, handcuffs and vibrators, in one handy bag under the front passenger seat.  Having these things isn’t a crime, but it sure seems weird and creepy.

Belle uses the phrase “testing himself” and describes John’s dangerous compulsion for putting himself in situations to see if he could avoid re-offending.  In my mind he succeeded.

Dr. Belle liked to use phrases like “Dangerous Compulsion”, was it a rhetorical device?  Or was it part of his vision of the role, protect the public from dangerous people.  But wasn’t he a psychologist trying to help people like John?

The 2008 events were somewhat lightly treated, Dr. Belle described John as being “on a break” in his relationship with Lisa and trying to have “as much sex as possible”, finding a safe outlet for his rape fantasies by engaging with prostitutes.  Once again, I see this as a success, if he has rape fantasies, and he arranges for a financial consensual transaction, who is damaged?

However, the Commonwealth thinks it is a crime, and he was convicted, and back in Bridgewater.

Juarez asks Belle about the stun gun in the car – Belle says that John states it was for protection but notes that John had anger issues. Once again, Belle’s remarks raise more questions for me.

Finally we get to the numbers.  Our job is to evaluate if John is likely to re-offend.  What do the actuaries who have studied the statistics on this say?

Juarez hands Dr. Belle a document which he acknowledges.  The clerk enters it as exhibit 5 –it is the report of an actuarial tool, the Static 99 R.

Juarez asks Belle to explain  the scoring of this test, John had scored 6, he got a point off for his age, but the rest of the things were decided in history (hence the word “static”), his prior sex offenses gave him 3 points, his lack of a long-term partner (over two years) gave him one point, the fact his victims were not relatives gave him a point, and the fact they were strangers gave him another point, and his engaging in “prior non-sexual violence” gave him another.  I paused at that one,  hadn’t heard about him engaging in non sexual violence.  Those point add up to six which puts John in the “highly likely to re-offend category” according to the books.

John’s numbers seem right on the cusp.  If he can shave one point off his score he’s only going to be moderately likely to re-offend.  I wonder about his getting points for never having a partner – when did he have a chance?  He’s been in Bridgewater his whole adult life!

Finally Schmidt gets to cross-examine.  She sets her papers on the podium, puts on her glasses, offers a big smile, and I am pretty sure I saw her pull long pointed talons onto the tips of her fingers.  Her posture at the stand tells me she’s not Belle’s friend.

Schmidt gets Belle discussing the phrase “in his deviant cycle”. The Deviant Cycle had been part of the discussion of why the UConn events, apparently people at Bridgewater spend a lot of time looking at cycles.  Does this tell me there are predictable cycles?  Is it like a werewolf, you’re fine except on the full moon?

What else do they do at Bridgewater?  Well Schmidt makes sure we will know.  She has three pieces of evidence entered – treatment records, class evaluations, most recent class records, and a document called “what I learned”.

Then she gets going on the DSM – she holds up her copy and glances at the jury box “I have a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual too.  It’s a little more beat up than attorney Juarez’s”.  You’re not impressing me Schmidt, boasting of wearing out a book that is part of your professional core is like boasting of riding the subway every day.

She asks Belle “was not the diagnosis ‘Paraphelia not otherwise specified – non consent’ invented to bill  insurance companies?”  Juarez – are you a sleep?  Isn’t that the sort of speculation you are supposed to object to?

Objections are the fun drama, the attorneys are playing the game intensely, they stand up with an explosion, and don’t raise their voices, the standing is enough to start the argument.  The eye contact between the two of them and then the imploring glance at the judge.  Often no words more than ”objection” are required – but when a side bar is called Schmidt stalks over,  Juarez flounces over and we the jury are left to wonder.  Judge Macleod peers down at them, yes, looking like a judge, but also looking like a mom trying to figure out how to work out a fair system for sharing the jump rope.

The Witnesses Begin – Clear a Belle

Returning at 9 AM is a late hour for me, I’m normally at my desk at 8 having been to the Y – so, getting up at the same time allowed me to keep my clients addicted to my services (and I can’t afford to let them think they could live without me!), and dash across downtown to the courthouse in time to report.  All that suffers is my health, and that’ll be back.

Second day of the trial finds us moving around the jury room changing our chairs, chatting more loosely. Susan (the retired teacher) is getting quieter – she’s still got her good book in front of her, but is doing crossword puzzles, I learn that Margaret is a medical examiner, never met one of those before – she’s chatting with Roy (the young un, who works as a cook) about skateboards and music, they both know a lot about each. If this were a party I was hosting I’d be wondering how I succeeded in assembling such a compatible group – and how I would get them  to stop chatting and move to the table and take their seats.  Wesley peeks in but we’re not late yet.  We figure out together that it is Larry, the artist who is late, and then he breezes in, complaining of the Orange Line.

Wesley has assigned the duty of telling the court we are assembled to Lauren, she’s a perky marketing type, also over 40, but someone who you notice.  It’s a valuable trait in sales types – she’s not provocative or a beauty queen, but she makes eye contact readily, and approaches the world with a smile. I found myself wanting to get to know her better. Lauren takes on her appointed duty pulling the string beside the door and then lifting her hands in a Ta Da gesture.

Wesley appears and we line up in our orderly fashion.  The courthouse had the same decorator as my elementary school (or lack of decorator), and a similar institutional feel – lining up seems fairly normal there although it is not a behavior I often engage in.

Down the stairs, past John, then his attorney, then Juarez, and into our seats.  We await Wesley calling us to order “Hear Ye Hear Ye, this court is now is session, the honorable Bonnie MacLeod Presiding, all those having business before her draw near and ye shall be heard, God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and this Honorable Court. You may be seated”.  He recites his script with no change in character, it is slightly joking playing the part which has been played for hundreds of years.  That may add something, it’s not magic and mysterious to him, he does this every day.

To John, it’s not magic or mysterious either, he’s been here before, but he is relying on us randomly selected people to return his freedom.  And the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are relying on us to evaluate whether he can safely be one of them. To me, it is magic and mysterious, how can be possibly be entrusted with such responsibility?

We take our seats, the clerk announces the name and numbers of the case, and Dr. Belle returns to the stand.

We’re brought back to the U-Conn events.  My initial problem with understanding why these are crimes isn’t dissipating. John was carrying “interventions” from the treatment center; he’s got an ammonia capsule which he can sniff to make an unpleasant sensation.  Belle presents that John failed to use the intervention although he had it with him.  My doubt flares big, why should he be using that?  He’s not raping women, he’s not getting close to raping them, he is offering them rides, and when three of them accept, he’s turning around and bringing them back to the campus.

Then Belle gets into the rape kit.  OK, that’s kind of creepy, John has in the car rope, handcuffs and vibrators, in one handy bag under the front passenger seat.  Having these things isn’t a crime, but it sure seems weird and creepy.

Belle uses the phrase “testing himself” and describes John’s dangerous compulsion for putting himself in situations to see if he could avoid re-offending.  In my mind he succeeded.

Dr. Belle liked to use phrases like “Dangerous Compulsion”, was it a rhetorical device?  Or was it part of his vision of the role, protect the public from dangerous people.  But wasn’t he a psychologist trying to help people like John?

The 2008 events were somewhat lightly treated, Dr. Belle described John as being “on a break” in his relationship with Lisa and trying to have “as much sex as possible”, finding a safe outlet for his rape fantasies by engaging with prostitutes.  Once again, I see this as a success, if he has rape fantasies, and he arranges for a financial consensual transaction, who is damaged?

However, the Commonwealth thinks it is a crime, and he was convicted, and back in Bridgewater.

Juarez asks Belle about the stun gun in the car – Belle says that John states it was for protection but notes that John had anger issues. Once again, Belle’s remarks raise more questions for me.

Finally we get to the numbers.  Our job is to evaluate if John is likely to re-offend.  What do the actuaries who have studied the statistics on this say?

Juarez hands Dr. Belle a document which he acknowledges.  The clerk enters it as exhibit 5 –it is the report of an actuarial tool the Static 99 R.

Juarez asks Belle to explain  the scoring of this test, John had scored 6, he got a point off for his age, but the rest of the things were decided in history (hence the word “static”), his prior sex offences gave him 3 points, his lack of a long-term partner (over two years) gave him one point, the fact his victims were not relatives gave him a point, and the fact they strangers gave him another point, and his engaging in “prior non-sexual violence” gave him another.  I paused at that one,  hadn’t heard about him engaging in non sexual violence.  Those point add up to six which puts John in the “highly likely to reoffend category” according to the books.

John’s numbers seem right on the cusp.  If he can shave one point off his score he’s only going to be moderately likely to re-offend.  I wonder about his getting points for never having a partner – when did he have a chance?  He’s been in Bridgewater his whole adult life!

Finally Schmidt gets to cross examine.  She sets her papers on the podium, puts on her glasses, offers a big smile, and I am pretty sure I saw her pull long pointed talons onto the tips of her fingers.  Her posture at the stand tells me she’s not Belle’s friend.

Schmidt gets Belle discussing the phrase “in his deviant cycle”. The Deviant Cycle had been part of the discussion of why the UConn events, apparently people at Bridgewater spend a lot of time looking at cycles.  Does this tell me there are predictable cycles?  Is it like a werewolf, you’re fine except on the full moon?

What else do they do at Bridgewater?  Well Schmidt makes sure we will know she has three pieces of evidence entered – treatment records, class evaluations, most recent class records, and a document called “what I learned”.

Then she gets going on the DSM – she holds up her copy and glances at the jury box “I have a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual too.  It’s a little more beat up than attorney Juarez’s”.  You’re not impressing me Schmidt, boasting of wearing out a book that is part of your professional core is like boasting of riding the subway every day.

She asks Belle “was not the diagnosis ‘Paraphelia not otherwise specified – non consent’ invented to bill  insurance companies?”  Juarez – are you a sleep?  Isn’t that the sort of speculation you are supposed to object to?

Objections are the fun drama, the attorneys are playing the game intensely, they stand up with an explosion, and don’t raise their voices, the standing is enough to start the argument.  The eye contact between the two of them and then the imploring glance at the judge.  Often no words more than ”objection” are required – but when a side bar is called Schmidt stalks over,  Juarez flounces over and we the jury are left to wonder.  Judge MacLeod peers down at them, yes, looking like a judge, but also looking like a mom trying to figure out how to work out a fair system for sharing the jump rope.

——————–

The Witnesses Begin – Clear a Belle

The court officer led the first witness from the door, through the gate into the middle of the courtroom.  The court officer was not exactly petite, blonde woman, average height and fit build. Next to the witness she looked tiny, the witness was a huge African American man, his suit properly tailored.  The court clerk asked him to swear that the testimony he gave would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God.  His voice matched his body, strong and confident, and the court officer led him to the stand.

Attorney Juarez faced him, and asked him to state and spell his name – “Gregg Anthony Belle”, G R E G G and B E L L E.  What were his parents thinking?  Give him two names with extra letters, so he would always have to spell both?

We began with hearing about his credentials, he had been working with sex offenders since his post-doc.  He had run the Bridgewater Treatment Center.  You wonder what got him into it – was he fascinated with the idea of helping these people?  Was it about the victims?  Was it simply a field which  he identified when finishing graduate school as somewhere there was a lack of good professionals, and so a good niche?

His CV is entered into evidence, and labeled as Exhibit 3.

Juarez asks him how he had evaluated John.  Belle stated that he had done interviews, reviewed records, and applied an actuarial tool. Belle was Juarez’s witness, they had planned how this information would flow. It was like a high school play with well practiced lines, but lacking actors who were going to make it.  Of course, when you are discussing sexual deviance all day, developing a level of clinical detachment is essential. 

Juarez took a thick document, walked over to Schmidt at the defense table and showed it to her.  Schmidt nodded, and Juarez asked “permission to approach the witness your honor?”  She looked up like we were playing the game “Mother May I”? 

Judge MacLeod smiled in an amused way as she said “yes”.  Every gesture from her seemed to be trying to make the courtroom warm, friendly, without sacrificing the decorum at all.  It was an amazing balance, like a perfectly run elementary classroom.  The authority is absolutely unquestioned and untested, so there is no need to prove it, and everyone can get the learning done.

Juarez walked forward and handed Belle the document.  “Do you recognize this document?”

“Yes” Belle wasted no words, he answered the question, and nothing else

“And what is it?”

“It is my report on John”

“and in it do you state a diagnosis?”

“Yes”

“and what is that diagnosis?”

Come on Juarez, stop asking questions where you get a “yes”, and ask the whole question the first time. 

“Paraphelia NOC Non-Consent”

She then asks about the risk factors for re-offending.  Belle provides a list – prior sexual offending, age of the first offense, unknown victims, unrelated victims, non-consenting nature of the crime, intimacy deficits, and cognitive distortion.  Here he is hitting his stride, he provides the list with rhythm in his voice, turning from cop to college professor.

Switching from general facts about psychology to facts  about John is the challenge, he’s has notes that John had rape fantasies beginning at age 10, but no longer thinks this way.  He then notes that sexual offender treatment does reduce the risk to re-offend.  This brings us to the first re-offense, the U-Conn incidents, and there, Judge Macleod asks them to stop and call it a day. 

She cautions us to not discuss, to try not to think or about the case, and to get a good night’s sleep.  Wesley stands within the gate and recites “All those having business before the Honorable Bonnie MacLeod and this court depart from here and return tomorrow at 9:00 in the morning, and ye shall  be heard. God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and this Honorable Court.”

Everyone rises and the jury is led upstairs.  I grab my stuff, and head up one flight of stairs, to the elevator to go down.  Three of us are waiting together, we have so much in common now, but we can’t discuss it.  Two more of us appear from the stairwell.  It’s an odd silence, but somehow talking about the weather doesn’t seem right either. The elevators finally come, two at once, we crowd in, and quietly head down.  I don’t think any of us were obeying the directive to not think about it.    

  

Opening Statements – “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”

The court supplied numbered note pads in envelopes on our chairs, but the judge noted that if you chose to take notes in opening statements, note clearly that these statements are not evidence, and should not be what you consider in reaching the verdict.  If we weren’t supposed to consider them, why have them?  But I sat I my comfortable chair to watch the show.

Attorney Melissa Juarez faced us with a written statement set on the podium which had been turned to our direction.  She straightened the edges of her papers.  I could see her coaches’ work, telling her technique to remain calm.  A deep breath, a big smile, eye contact, and “ladies and gentlemen of the jury” – the starting sentence was so expected it was unexpected – her accent was slight, enough so you knew English wasn’t her only language, but slight enough that there was no difficulty in understanding her.  A few words were oddly pronounced, but it was at the level you notice whether people say  “car” or “cah” (the second being the correct term for an automobile in a Massachusetts court room).

She was young and impeccably groomed, long hair not a strand out of place, power suit, and probably ran marathons.

She told us the story.  We had heard it before, but now with more detail. We would hear it with more detail again and again, but this was her chance to really get the horror inside our heads.  I will write it out as I heard it, if you do not want to read violence, skip ahead to the dotted line.

In 1982 John offered a ride to a 13 woman named Tracy who said she was going near the airport in Falmouth.  When she realized the airport was closed, she tried to open the door, but the door handle had been removed.  John drove her to a remote place, hit her over the head with rock which he had in his hat, put her in handcuffs, and raped her with a vibrator.

A few weeks later, John again offered a ride to a young woman, hit her over the head with a rock which was in a sock, tied her up with rope, drove her to a remote place, held her at knife point, and raped her with a vibrator.

The third one sounds the same, except she told him she was pregnant. John felt her belly, and let her go.

———–

Listening to this from Attorney Juarez didn’t have the same gut clenching horror as it had had the first  time. Maybe it was the repetition, or maybe it was her clinical style, she was reading facts. She did not look up from the paper often.  After getting through the initial crimes, we heard John’s life continue.

We heard of him being released from the treatment center, and going to live in the community.

I have trouble seeing the issue with the U-Conn events. He approached more than 100 women on the University of Connecticut campus in 1999. He told them a story about needing someone to watch his children, or his puppies. Three of these women got in his car, and he drove to an abandoned house, when he got there, he said something like “oh, my wife’s car is not here, she must have taken the kids, I’ll take you back to campus”.

Juarez described these as if approaching women on a college campus was a crime.  I would never have married if that was the case.  None of the women said John had touched them in appropriately, but he was  convicted of stalking and served 18 months.

And, back to the community, and back to the third offense, solicitation of sex and possession of a stun gun.  In 2008 he was stopped by Springfield police for a traffic violation; a prostitute who was with him at the time told authorities John had asked if he could tie her up and she agreed. Along with the stun gun, police also found a piece of pipe, a pair of gloves, rope and bleach.

————-

After telling the story, Juarez told us how convincing the testimony would be.  The accent was strongest on words beginning with “a” “actuarial” and “aparaphilia” – that’s the word I heard, I didn’t know it,  so I didn’t know it was  incorrect. It’s actually not the word she meant, which was “paraphilia”, but it always seemed to have an “a” attached to the beginning. So far, the description of what we would hear wasn’t persuasive, maybe I was just successful in not making any opinions until I was supposed to.

Sandra Schmidt took the podium to present how she was going to convince us that John was not sexually dangerous.  Actually, the point she made was that she didn’t have to prove it.  The other side had the burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt.  She looked at us, made real eye contact, and reminded us that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.

At this point I knew that I couldn’t find John to be sexually dangerous, a system that could lock him up not for a crime, but for a possible future crime was not just, and I would prevent that.

Schmidt made us like John, she described his college experience, working to get an education through ROTC “however, his education was interrupted by his incarceration”.  She described his relationship with Lisa, his fiancée, which whom he now had a “non-sexual relationship”, but full of love.  “You’ll get to hear from Lisa” she offered as a special treat.

We learned about the work at the Treatment Center in Bridgewater, John took every available group, and actively participated, became a peer leader, did it all.

Was all this enough to prevent him from being sexually dangerous again?  That was the Commonwealth’s job to disprove, and I had more than a reasonable doubt.

The Mysterious Juror #1

 

Since only nine of the intended 14 were empanelled on the first day, they told us to report at noon on Wednesday.  I got in a good morning at work, and headed over.  To get to the jury room you take the elevator to 10, and walk down stairway number 2 to floor 9 ½ .  Ten of my co-jurors are already there. 

We’re varied in age, Roy is 22, a grill cook at a healthy fast food place, Susan is a retired teacher. We’re starting to connect.  Susan is reading a classic, I forget which one, maybe Jane Eyre but the impression was of a beloved friendly book, something you’ve read before but knew would be a good choice for lots of hanging around.  We’re together at one end of the table.  Larry is about my age (50), he’s sitting slightly away from the table where the light from the window is best.  He’s an artist.  We’re not all chatting, but the silence which dominated yesterday is dissipating.

What are the first topics you talk about?  We don’t get to “what do you do for a living?”, which can be a rude question, we are being very careful not to discuss the case, although “why did you get picked?” seems OK – a social worker (Andrea) notes that she is surprised she got  picked as she has done counseling on sexual violence. We discuss how they managed to fill the empty four chairs in only a few hours when it took all day yesterday to fill nine, and conclude the attorneys had used up their challenges.

Wesley, the Bailiff peeks in, and counts us “Thirteen, and we’re supposed to have fourteen, wait, don’t help me, I can do the math.” He makes a big show of counting on his fingers, and says “one missing, did I get that right?  When he gets here, pull this string, that turns on a light in the court room.”

The chatter resumes, I ask Larry what kind of art he does, and he shows me his drawings on his smart phone.

Wesley comes back “he’s called in, he’s close”.  We figure out it is Juror Number 1 who is missing.  Jurors 1 through 8 had been in this room most of the day before.  Larry (Juror number 4) recalled Juror Number 1 – “he was sort of high strung, just came over from Provincetown to do jury duty, had to change clothes six times during the day”.

By now Juror Number 1 is  half an hour late “why don’t they just grab another from the jury pool?” we start to mutter.  “Maybe we can go with 13”. Another cameo appearance from Wesley who tells us “he’s almost here”.  This is beginning to resemble Waiting for Godot.  On Wesley’s fourth appearance he asks us to line up by juror number in the corridor – and he leads us to the court room.  The stair is poorly lit, and the risk manager in me calculates the odds of juror 11 tripping and pushing the rest of us down like dominoes.  I hold the railing, and am glad I didn’t wear heels.  Ahead of me I hear Wesley calling “All Rise, jury entering”, and we cross into the sunny court room.  Today the lawyers are in navy blue jackets, and John in the same well pressed blue shirt. 

The seats in the jury box are comfortable, padded, slight swivel, and the can tilt a little back, well designed for sitting for hours.  Judge MacLeod addresses us – “you have waited patiently for about an hour.  I am sure that you are not feeling kindly towards your fellow juror who has wasted your time. The difficulty he has with appearing now tells me he may have other difficulties as the case continues, so, the attorneys and I have agreed to go forward with 13 jurors.  We will swear you in, then break for lunch now, and this afternoon, you will hear opening statements”. 

Wesley calls “All Rise”, and leads us back to the jury room.  I ask him what will happen to Juror Number 1, and he ominously, clicks the handcuffs on his belt.  “I’ve sent the police out to juror’s homes too – so, none of you want to be late coming back from lunch, right?”  We all slightly quake.

I pick up my lunch bag, and we disperse, and head up to 10.  I find a ladies room.  As I’m leaving a young man is leaving the men’s room.  He’s wearing black jeans, a white shirt, a pale blue sweater tied around his neck, sunglasses propped on his head, and a smart phone in his hand. “Oh, hi, you’re on the jury right?”

I’m a little nervous, is this guy going to try to sway me in some way?  The corridor seems completely isolated, everyone’s gone to lunch.  “I’m on a jury” I say cautiously.

“The sex guy one right? I’m supposed to be on that, I think I’m in big trouble” 

“Yes, I think you are, you should go talk to the judge, it’s that stair over there”.

He flies off, sweater functioning as a cape.

I head for the Garden of Peace which I had seen out the window, and settle down with my hummus cheese and carrot wrap, and a detective story. I allow 20 minutes to walk the half block back, go through the metal detectors, up to ten, and down to 9½.  I’m ten minutes early, no need for Wesley to click his handcuffs at me.  Susan never left, she’s eaten her lunch there.  “Juror 1 showed up, he said ‘you can say I was here at ten of, right?’ I told him I couldn’t and suggested he pull the string so he could talk to the judge”.  Susan, the retired elementary school teacher, is the last person in the world I would ask to lie for me. 

Roy and Jorge came back together, they had also run into Juror Number 1, and told him to talk to the judge. Wesley looked in on us, did his big show of struggling with math, and randomly chose Samantha, “you’re in charge, when the missing two show up, pull the string”.   No one was late getting back from lunch, but after pulling the string, it was 15 minutes before Wesley led us downstairs, and we heard “All  Rise” again.

“Good Afternoon jurors, Juror One did appear, but due to personal issues, I have excused him from service on this jury, as I have mentioned,  I want happy jurors  who will work well together”.

Next installment – opening statements – reasonable doubt?