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.

——————–

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7 thoughts on “The Belle Continues to Ring

  1. HI readers, sorry to leave you on a cliff so long -New Years Resolution is to write an hour a week, at least. That doesn’t mean a post a week, I want to work them carefully and not waste your time, but it does mean, you will get to a verdict.

    Thanks for reading!

  2. Revisiting this experience makes me wonder why they never submitted the DSM as evidence/exhibit. Three plus days of debating the whether a diagnosis even existed…strange. I wish jurors had the right to object….

  3. Yes, since the verdict pretty much rested on the diagnosis and its implications for sexually dangerous behavior, it probably would have been helpful.

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