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?”
“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.