Last week, Jeff and I attended a murder trial. No, that's not something we just suddenly decided to do; rather, the prosecutor is a friend of ours, and we wanted to see him in action. Actually, that's a very watered-down version of why we went. I remember when the crime happened, nearly four years ago. It was a random act of violence that shocked our small town. The victims were an older couple - the husband died, and the wife somehow survived the attack. The defendant was a high school student. There were so many "whys" about this crime at the time...while murder never makes sense, this was especially senseless.
We knew this was a very important case for our friend, and knew how hard he and his team have been working on it, so we (with his permission - although it is a public courtroom, we didn't want to be distractions to him) planned on attending the opening arguments, last February. The trial was delayed by the defense, and in the meantime, Jeff ended up in the jury pool for this trial - how random was that? It was a very large pool, over 200 people, and of course Jeff disclosed that he was friends with the prosecutor, so he was eventually cut. That was a good thing, because otherwise, he and our friend couldn't have run together until the trial was over.
We sat on the left side, which was the prosecutor's side...and yes, it was like a wedding in that you definitely chose your side to show your support. I was really surprised at how small the newly-renovated courtroom was - there were only three rows of seating on each side, and a lot of family and friends of the victims were around us. I tucked a sock knitting project in my purse and beforehand, had thought that I might quietly knit while I listened to the proceedings, but no. First, I felt like it would have been too disrespectful to the family around me to sit and knit while the death of their loved one was described, and second, I was drawn in by the proceedings and was entirely focused on what was happening in the courtroom.
The opening statements were compelling - our friend did a great job of painting a picture of the horrific events that transpired, and of the utter disregard for human life the defendant had. The defense's opening arguments were interesting in that they did not disagree about how terrible the act was that their client had committed...they really couldn't, as the defendant had made a full confession. This part of the trial was pretty much to introduce evidence, have him found guilty, and then get to the punishment phase. The defendant was charged with capital murder, which means he will either receive the death penalty, or life in prison without parole. He was found guilty on Friday. The punishment phase of the trial begins today.
While I've always had respect for law enforcement officers, my gratitude for them grew as I listened to the first officer who responded to the 9-1-1 call. He entered a residence knowing something really bad was happening, he encountered the body of the husband lying in the garage, and he went inside to help the wife who was gravely injured, all the while not knowing if the murderer was still in the house. The next person to testify was a police Sargent, who arrived soon after. He knew two officers were inside the house at that point, checking for the murderer, so he went around the backyard. He said he could see an officer inside, and went to the sliding glass door to be let inside; when the officer raised his hand to unlock the door, the Sargent noticed he was shaking...and yet, he was still there, doing what needed to be done.
I realized, not only as I watched the police officers testify, but also as I saw how in-depth and detailed the prosecution was with their case, that this was something I would not want to do as my profession. I could not handle what they see and do. But I felt such a deep appreciation for them, for being willing to take on something like this and do such an exemplary job with a horrific situation. This was an eye-opening experience, and one that I'm very glad I got to witness. Additionally, I hope this is as close as I'll ever have to be to something like this. While we all hear and read about terrible crimes, it was much too real to see it in the courtroom, even with justice being served.