Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I hate these posts

I hate reading these posts..."where I've been"..."why I haven't been writing." Generally, I don't care why my favorite bloggers are having trouble writing. I just want them to write so I'll have something to read. I'm selfish that way. So I won't blame anybody if they really don't care about my reasons for being less-than-interesting these days. But I promise this isn't one of those posts. This reason for not more than a lame is something that gets to the very heart of me and my emotional well-being these last couple of weeks. (If you are particularly sensitive, you may not want to read about this.)

I work as an assistant prosecutor in the civil division of a county prosecutor's office. I do any legal work for the county/townships/departments/agencies/boards that isn't legal. It's generally a good job and the emotional investment is minimal. There are some cases that take more out of me than others, but they are, thankfully, kept to a minimum.

I am in "the old courthouse" ancient building that has the remains of a cinder block jail in the basement and the old courtroom with the vaulted ceiling that we use as a conference room. My boss...the elected official with the title of "county prosecutor" has his office in the same building. When he has a big trial, he works at the big table in the conference room. Such has been the case for the past month or so. And this one has us all more than a bit rattled.

A father stood trial, accused of shaking his four-month-old baby girl to death. He was on trial for the second time for the crimes...murder and child endangering. The first trial resulted in a mistrial (Because a juror lied about his ability to be objective during jury voir dire and reportedly made statements during jury deliberations about how the prosecutor's office "railroads people" and "there are too many innocent people in prison." Yeah. Love the jury system.).

The allegations were that the father picked the baby up at the babysitter's in the late afternoon, stopped at the grocery for beer, went home, and drank himself into a stupor. When the baby's mother arrived home that night, she found daddy drunk (he admits to drinking eight beers that evening and taking three more with him to the children's hospital) and she immediately knew something was wrong with her child when she found her with a “fixated eye” stare, making a “moaning sound." The mother testified of trying to get the baby to drink milk, then noticed the “soft spot” on the baby’s head was bulging. She took the baby to the hospital. The baby died several days later at a children's hospital. The autopsy report found the death to be a homicide. Medical experts testified that the cause was Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome. The father denied any wrongdoing and his defenses included blaming the babysitter and claiming the child had a stroke. Creating reasonable doubt.

The carseat was sitting in our conference room for the past month with an evidence tag on it.

I can say the obvious. I can say it over and over and over. But I just don't have the strength in me. It took all I had to just walk past that open door and see that carseat sitting there each morning.

During the trial, I would see the mother around the courthouse complex during breaks. She has that look about her...even though this happened more than three years ago...she still has that look. I recognize that look as my own. We smiled at each other and I saw the fleeting awkward looks toward my belly. I "ran" and hid in my office, not knowing exactly how to react.

Wednesday the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges. Everything remains the same...but (hopefully) at least the carseat will be moved from the conference room.


Kathy McC said...

That just turns my stomach...I am sorry that you have to see cases like that.

Diana said...

Are you kidding> Not guilty????? I'm usually a lurker here...but I had to comment today. I hate to see people that hurt children get off like that.

delphi said...

Oh Catherine. I don't know how you have survived such a trial - in both senses of the word "trial". Horrible. I feel sick just reading about it, let alone living it for a month.


Confessions of a Knitting Diva said...

Oh my gosh, I cannot believe he got off. It makes me sick! It is amazing that you could go to work everyday and walk past that car seat.
I was sent a questionnaire for jury duty and I answered honestly that if the trial had anything to do with child abuse, I would have a very hard time being impartial. I got a letter stating that I wouldn't be chosen this time around. Wonder what the trial was about?

Aurelia said...

Gahhhh, I hate these cases. They truly truly upset me, simply because we know the crudhead is guilty and he's going to do it again.

And you guys have done your best and all, but in the end, he STILL gets off. Totally completely frustrating!!

The Nanny said...

he got off??? how ridiculous...i'm seething. truly.

AJW5403 said...

How in the hell did this man get a not guilty verdict. I just don't get our leagal system. It makes me just sick.

Julia said...

I'm sorry, Catherine. This is hard in so many ways. To watch this injustice unfold before your eyes, to watch the mother, to worry that you are making her heart hurt a little more because of where you are. I am so sorry.

niobe said...

What a nightmare that must have been.

Just looking at it from a legal standpoint, though, I'm surprised that the jury failed to convict based on those seemingly flimsy defenses. But obviously, I didn't see the evidence go in or hear the testimony.

Sherry said...

Ditto what Julia said. I'm so sorry. = (

kate said...

Me too, i am so sorry. It makes me want to vomit.

GLouise said...

WOW, I can't believe he got off.
And I am sorry for you, having to endure that last week. ;-(