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The Case of Unfulfilled Dreams

July 26, 2008

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

I have spent most of the week painting, yes, again. I can hardly believe it is Saturday. I have another week or two, and then I should have more time to devote to visiting everyone’s blogs or a more frequent basis.

 

A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.

                                                                               Robert Frost

 

 

Sitting in front of our television screens in the 50’s and 60’s, our world was opened to many dreams of fame and fortune. The Dick Clark Show allowed some to dream of being the next rock and roll singer while Dragnet ensured an exciting career in law enforcement. Lost in Space created visions of being an astronaut and That Girl gave ideas of freedom and excitement if we moved from our small rural towns to big cities. I was most influenced by Perry Mason. He not only saved his innocent clients from a certain conviction, but did so through honesty and fairness. I was confident I could be the absolute best female lawyer and enrolled in college prep courses as soon as I entered high school. Three years later my dreams of college and becoming a defense attorney ended with an unplanned pregnancy and an unwanted marriage. Little did I know at the time that the courtroom would play a significant role in my life and change my views on the integrity of lawyers.   

 

My first encounter with the court system came in my late 20’s when I received a notice I was selected to serve on a jury. For many years I heard friends and relatives complain about jury duty. They believed if someone was arrested and put in jail then they must be guilty, so why waste their time sitting through a long trial. But I had watched many Perry Mason episodes and knew sometimes people were innocent. And I believed a trial by jury was the best way to prove innocence or quilt. After all, the court system was all about getting to the truth of any given case. Right?. . . Wrong! I was to learn I was as naïve about the justice system being about truth as I was about marriage being about fidelity.

 

I was a member of a twelve person jury selected to decide the guilt or innocence of a man accused of molesting and raping the eleven-year-old daughter of his girlfriend. Given my past of molestation and rape in my youth, I should have disqualified myself from this trial, but I kept silent. I have often thought the reason I decided to go forward was because I wanted to help one girl who had endured the same torment and fear as I many years before she was ever born. What I was not prepared for was how my integrity would not permit me to levy my need for vengeance against this defendant, who I truly believed was guilty of the crimes he was charged.

 

I was stunned to learn that not all attorneys lived by the same code of seeking truth as my hero Perry Mason. A technicality of the law in the late 70’s required in cases of molestation and/or rape the exact time of the offense must be proven by the prosecutor. The combination of a frightened little girl, an unprepared prosecutor, an unscrupulous defense attorney, and the directives from a judge to the jurors that exact time of the alleged offences must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt resulted in this child molester being found innocent. I was the lone holdout for several hours of deliberation, refusing to vote for an acquittal. I knew in my heart this man raped this little girl. I also knew the prosecution did not even come close to proving the times of the offenses. The defense attorney tore the little girl apart on the witness stand and created confusion in her mind on the days and times over a one year period in which she was molested and raped. Her testimony ended in tears stating she didn’t know when, she just knew he did it. After four hours of deliberation, our jury foreman sent a note to the judge stating we were a hung jury. The judge refused to accept this and sent a letter back stating we were not to only focus our verdict on whether the defendant molested and raped this girl, but “did he molest and rape her on the dates and times listed in each of the seven counts.” I finally had to come to terms with the fact the dates and times were not proven. One of the hardest things I have ever done is sign my name to the Not Guilty verdict.

 

I left the courthouse that day and tore up the check I was given for payment for my time to set a guilty man free. My respect for our judicial system would be further reduced fourteen years later during another trial, which is a Slice of Life story in its own right. I am very disillusioned with our justice system. At times, I find myself reflecting on my childhood dream to be an attorney and like to believe I would have been honest and fair, seeking the truth in any case I defended or prosecuted. A reading of the local newspaper or watching the evening news covering high profile trial cases is evidence the vast majority of attorneys do not hold the same code of ethics as portrayed by Perry Mason.  I believe money and power, especially in politics, changes a person from good intentions of what they wanted to be into what they allow themselves to become. The lessons I learned during my encounters with the American judicial system taught me one of God’s greatest gifts is unfulfilled dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2008 5:49 pm

    I admire you for tearing up your check they had paid you to set a man free. I don[‘t know that I would have looked at it like that, but I’m sure it was really hard on you to set that man free after the experiences you had as a child.

    Well written.

    ~~Thank you Betty for stopping by. Yes, this was a very difficult experience for me. I had nightmares for many years thinking about that poor little girl and how she must have thought no one believed her. Cricket

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