Let me tell you about my second time being called up.
(I have been called up 3 times now, counting yesterday. The first time, I got as far as voir dire – but apparently I was not good enough for one of the lawyers because I was released on a peremptory challenge. And yesterday, well.. you know what happened. They heard me hacking and whining and realized what a pain in the ass I would be and let the whole damn room go before we even talked to a judge).
But the second time. In a word: awful.
Not awful in an overall sense, because – in the end, justice was served. But awful in that it was one of the hardest weeks of my life. It was 7 years ago, but it still feels like yesterday.
And you read that right: week. I served on a week-long trial for attempted first degree murder and first degree assault.
Watch out, folks. This ain’t a pretty story. I’ll tell you the facts, and try to get through them quickly.[Deep breath]. The defendant picks his wife up from the night shift and makes her drive him around, trolling for drugs. When he can’t find any, he starts beating her senseless. While she is driving. Knocks two of her teeth clear into the backseat. Finally makes her drive him home, where their 4 children are – one of them only 18 months old – and drags her from the car into the house by her hair. When she begs for mercy, he drags her into the bathroom and cuts off her hair… taking pieces of flesh along the way. Then beats her some more – splashing her blood around the bathroom. The kids are upstairs are scared shitless. Finally, he dumps her on their bed, and gives her a pot to spit her blood into.
The next morning, when she does not report to work (seeing as she works about 16 hours a day to support him, and all), her coworkers call the police. Because the wife has always said he would kill her one day. Because the coworkers have heard him threaten to kill her one day.
The police arrive by around noon, no one answers. Bam bam bam! They try to knock down the door and the husband comes at them with a 2×4. He holds the police off for as long as he can, until they break through, cuff him… find the wife… find the kids – frightened to death and cleaning up their mother’s blood.
A whole week, I could not breathe a word of this to Bryan. A whole week, I looked at gruesome photo after gruesome photo of this poor woman. A whole week, I watched this man – this monster – literally intimidate every single witness for the prosecution with his facial expressions and mannerisms.
I. was. a. fucking. nervous. wreck.
Even the wife was so scared of him they had to hold her in contempt of court to testify against him. (Which I thought they could not do? Joansy?)
The pictures of her before and after… she looked like a completely different person from the assault. Her entire face plate had to be restructured. And tired. She looked… so. damn. tired.
The prosecution was meticulous in their explanation of first degree murder. That there must be premeditation. And that premeditation can include an act, or in this case, a failure to act. Leaving his wife to bleed to death when she so desperately needed medical attention. For hours. And furthermore, blocking the police from entering the house when they called out, saying they were checking on her. The doctors estimated had the police arrived even 15 minutes later, she would have been dead.
When we went to the deliberation room, we took an initial vote. Just to get a feel. Everyone was unanimous on the assault charge. It was about 50/50 on the first degree murder charge. Which, I think, was good. That is the point. We needed to talk through and take this thing seriously.
Which we did and finally all agreed on a verdict. Guilty.
I have never shook so bad as when we reentered the courtroom. Thank god I turned down the Head Juror position that they tried to foist on me. I would have literally passed out.
The malice on that man’s face was incredible when the verdict was read. In-credible. And he took a hard, long look at each and every one of us. Every. one.
Luckily the judge quickly ensconced us all in his chambers, so we did not have to hang around much longer after that. But that is when I remembered. Remembered that I clearly had said the exact name of where I worked during voir dire. Not just that I was a “graphic designer for a cancer center.” The exact fucking name. Stupid ass me for being so enamored with the process that I got carried away. As the jurors murmured about all the monster’s little innuendos, I thought I was going to throw up. Right there on the judge’s $10,000 desk.
I finally got home and was able to tell Bryan the whole story. We sat in the front room and I cried as I told him what had happened to that poor woman. And you wouldn’t believe what happened. Someone pounded on our door. I was like a cat – jumped straight into the air, hissing and screeching and probably shaved 10 years off my life in those 10 seconds it took for Bryan to rush to the door. As I hyperventilated he told the kid selling candy bars we didn’t want any, and I asked him if we could lock the door, and resume the story in our bedroom, under the covers… so I could feel safe.
But it took me a while to feel safe. Weeks even.
Probably not until I got the call from the district attorney’s office telling me he had received a 35 year sentence, and since he had been in prison for assault previously (something they could not tell us until after the trial), that he would probably serve a great deal of it.
Can you imagine what that poor woman feels like? And her children?
And while I left a piece of my heart in that courtroom, I am very thankful I was able to serve on that jury. And help protect her, help protect them – help protect all of us – from that man. Yes, I am glad he got a fair trial and our system works. But mostly, in this case, I am just glad he is away and gone.