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.

One thought on “Friends and Family

  1. It’s good to see you’re back at the writing. Thanks, Abby. It’s an interesting tale. I’ve never gotten too far into the jury process myself.

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