Truth comes in strange packages. The barely thirty-something women sat on the witness stand, preparing to tell a story she would rather have kept buried in the recesses of her mind. But the subpoena didn’t allow her that option. Instead she focused intently, keeping her eyes on the prosecutor. Knowing the intimate details of the nightmare she was about to share made the thought of eye contact with a panel of strangers too much to bear. She kept her eyes focused like a laser on the knot in his tie wishing he would say something, anything, to break the awful silence.
Sitting off to her right, next to his attorney was her former antagonist. While he had someone to stand in for him she found herself once again alone. Had she ever had anyone to stand with her? It seemed like a foreign concept to her.
As the calendar had moved so rapidly toward this day she had tried to convince herself that maybe, just maybe, someone would believe her this one time. But as she sat alone the doubts returned. She tried to be strong but she found herself leaning slightly forward, shoulders hunched and her legs pulled in close to her chair. Yet another form of the fetal position she had escaped too so many times before. Next, she let her mind travel to the safe place she had created years ago. And as so many times before she once again prepared for what was about to come. This time it wouldn’t be physical pain, but rather mental pain. Not that they hadn’t gone together in the past. She was about to be forced by subpoena to tell her story under oath.
She found herself taking a strange comfort in the knowledge that the time had arrived. That the pain would end at some point. At least in a temporary way. She was ready for the first blow of the humiliation about to be unleashed on her; this time in front of strangers.
In the front row, in seat number two, sat a middle aged juror. Just a mere 8 feet from the witness, he found himself focused on the woman’s body language. Tom Allen and the rest of the jurors had been sworn in prior to lunch. They then listened to the opening arguments from both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney. Sitting on what was now his 7th trial in 25 years he found himself wondering, of the 300 potential jurors to show up that morning, why did he have to wind up on yet another jury? And why did it have to be this kind of trial. The past civil trials were intellectually stimulating, even fun. The one criminal trial, a DUI was routine but boring in many respects. But now he found himself in a group of random citizens that would have to render a verdict on 13 different counts.
Considering the least offensive charge was an allegation that a dog, with legs and muzzle taped, was beaten by the blunt end of a hatchet, it was obvious to all that there would be no fun for anyone. Especially witness #3. Now known to all as Ashely Krist.
As the court assistant finished instructing the witness, Tom returned to the present.
(The above story is based on my experience as a juror last week. Abuse is a scourge on our society. It is much more widespread then most people will admit. Out of 43 potential jurors the judge said they were barely able to seat a jury. So many are touched by abuse that almost 2 out of 3 were excused because experience, either direct or with a close family member, would not allow them to serve objectively.)
Help is available at the National Domestic Violence Hotline