catelin: (Default)
( Apr. 26th, 2006 05:26 pm)
In a criminal case, the victim has a right to make a statement after the defendant is sentenced. This is called the victim's allocution. It is the single time that the victim is able to address the defendant directly, to speak her mind, to spill out everything that she's been choking down for months and months. I was witness to many of these allocutions when I was a prosecutor. Sometimes they were quiet, almost whispers. Other times, they were raging storms--screaming, crying, shaking of fists, pointing of fingers. There were some who wished the defendants peace; others wished them dead. No matter what, they were always heartbreaking. It was hard to watch and not feel like an intruder. Hard to see a person bearing the unbearable.

Today, I was on the other side of the courtroom for my first victim's allocution as a defense attorney. I'd been dreading it for weeks, knowing that this time I was going to be sitting next to the person toward whom whatever was coming would be addressed. I wouldn't be able to get up, I wouldn't be able to leave if I couldn't bear hearing it. I would have to sit there, on the side of the person who had caused so much pain to others, because that is my job. That is part of what I have to do and I knew that I would simply have to get through it somehow. My greatest fear was that I would not be able to do it. What if they hated me too? What if they thought that I was somehow now a part of what caused them so much grief? How would I face them? I couldn't even think about it without crying.

I prepared my client for what was going to happen the best that I could, explaining the process and letting him know what to expect. I told him that part of making things right was letting the family express their sorrow, their anger, their loss, anything that they needed to say. So I sat there today, next to my client, and listened to a mother tell how the last words from her son were that he had just proposed to his girlfriend--how he was going to spend the rest of his life with her. And he did. Three hours later, they were both dead. I looked at her as she spoke, thinking that it would be wrong of me to look away; that it would be disrespectful not to soak every bit of it in. I could feel tears coming and I knew the harder I tried not to cry the more they would come. So I sat and listened to her story, with tears rolling down my face. I felt ashamed, like I had no right to cry for her son, but I couldn't help it. I thought of my own boys and how no mother should ever have to bury a child.

It was in this moment that life showed how it is full of unexpected grace. She addressed me from the witness stand. For a second I froze. I steadied myself for her anger at my tears, for the presumptuousness I would have to cry for her son when I represented the man who had caused his death. She looked at me and said, "I know this is hard for you. I want you to know I don't blame you. It's okay."

Then she moved from the witness stand and came to my table and put her hand on my arm, nodding to me before she went back to her seat in the audience. It was one of the most heartwrenching experiences I've ever had, but I am glad that I went through it because it left me with the certainty of the good in people. I found out later that she had been told about me before the allocution by some of the people in the courtroom--about my past with other cases, about the sort of person I am. I have always been humbled by the way the people I work with care about me, by the way they consider me family and look out for me; but this was so unexpected and such a kindness to me that I am still a little shaken by it.

So my day in court is done. My client thanked me before he was taken back to the holding cell. The families said their goodbyes to each other and returned to the lives they are trying to piece together. The fact that I managed to get through it pales in comparison with the other people who had to get through it as well. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else today other than where I was.
catelin: (pallasathena)
( Oct. 21st, 2005 10:26 am)
I drink my morning coffee in the cool morning air and mull over all of my failures, large and small. It is the season of ghosts and this is what I do. It is a time when I regret not having the necessary language to describe what it is that I secretly wish for, even for myself. October's moon for me is the Riddle Moon. It is the time when I feel the need to figure something out, to name the secret name, to find the answer to a question I cannot articulate. How can I ever hope to find something so abstract that there is no word I know for it? This is always the difficulty I wrestle as the first hints of fall creep up to my doorstep each year. I miss my grandmothers and I prepare for the loss of my only living grandparent. He'll go soon. He told me as much the last time I spoke to him. I tell him there are still things left to do and he gently reminds me that some things will have to be done without him. My mother is the one I worry about most. She minimizes her connections to people so the losing them won't be so hard. I know this about her because it is in this that we are most alike.

October makes me lonely. It is the month when I am acutely aware of the consequences of my solitary nature. Whether it is a person, place, or particular state of mind that would fulfill me, I am at a loss for it in October. In October, I pay the price for being who I am. It is the month where I have to admit to myself that, in spite of the lovely glimmers of understanding here and there, I have yet to find another person who sees all of me. Is it only a matter of language? Is it a matter of recognizing the right sound or inflection? Is it a particular smell or feeling? Or a particular chain of events that will open my eyes to whatever it is I feel has eluded me? The only thing that does not change is my obstinate determination to be watchful for something that I'm not sure even exists. The only thing that has changed is that I am even more impatient with the false starts and missteps to which I have subjected myself and others in my efforts to put a name to what it is I secretly want to find...or what it is I want to find me.

At the same time, this is the month where I am at my best and most connected with everything I love. I never fail to recognize the fullness of this life I am living, even with all its ghosts. I suppose I am no different than anyone else. Our lives are complex and bittersweet chimeras, pieced together from everything that we have and everything we don't. We probably all try, in one way or another, to search out that Rumplestiltskin moment, where we whisper just the right words to make everything finally fall into place.
I'm cleaning tonight. My house is a wreck most of the time. One of the drawbacks of being a single mom....I get to do ALL of the housecleaning without any help or cheering on. It's when I'm cleaning that I sometimes wonder if I've missed out by turning down offers of marriage and otherwise. I think of how nice it would be to, just once in a blue moon, have someone else take out the trash or fold the laundry. Someone to help me put the sheets on the bed, someone to cook breakfast with on Sunday mornings. I look around my house some nights and just want to burst into tears from how much I have to do. It would be nice to have someone that would tell me, "Hey, don't worry. We'll do it together." So that's what I think of...and then, when I'm done feeling sorry for myself, I move on to other things---like:

--Am I the only woman my age who still wears an apron around the house?

--The Remains of the Day is probably one of the saddest movies I've ever seen...that part where she moves to see what he's reading...it breaks my heart.

--I need to paint my toenails. Poor upkeep of the pedicure is a sign I'm falling apart here.

--Should I call him? Should I not call him? Or should I wait for him to call me? Keeerrrrist! I am such a dork!

--Is that another grey hair???

--I've got the perfect ending for that short story that's been languishing for the last few weeks.

--I'm going to take a nice long walk across the dam with my kids tomorrow.

--And I'm going to figure out where I hid that plane ticket from myself!! I hate when I do that!!

--I'm going to Seattle to visit Shae. Emergency Friend First-Aid, you know. : ) I'm completing a circle in a lot of ways...someone reached out and helped me years back when I was caving in on myself. Now it's my turn to repay the kindness that saved me so long ago. Gotta call my mom and figure out how soon I can get out there.

--Trial coming up in a couple of weeks.

--They took a biopsy from a spot near my collar bone yesterday. I won't find out anything until next week. I'm not that worried....no point in worrying. So I won't.

--The boys are being so good tonight. It's too quiet...which means I probably need to see what they're up to!!!

And now I must go scrub the toilets! I don't need a husband. I need a maid!! ; )
Ever have those inexplicable times when you find yourself wondering about woulda-shoulda-coulda? Where nothing's really wrong, but nothing's really right? When you wonder how long you're gonna be stuck between lonely and fulfilled? It's that pesky fuckin' twilight that I hate. I remember a Frank Zappa interview where he talked about how love songs perpetrated this awful hoax on everyone, making us long for things that didn't exist. I knew before I even pulled out the cd that I should just put it right back on the shelf and go to sleep.

North Dakota
(Lyle Lovett and Willis Alan Ramsey)

The boys from North Dakota
They drink whisky for their fun
And the cowboys down in Texas
They polish up their guns
And they look across the border
To learn the ways of love

If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, say I do
If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, say I do
And you can say I love you
And you can say I do

So I drank myself some whisky
And I dreamed I was a cowboy
And I rode across the border

If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
If you love me, say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
And you can say I love you
And you can have my hand

I remember in the mornings
Waking up
With your arms around my head
You told me you can sleep forever
And I'll still hold you then

Now the weather's getting colder
It's even cold down here
And the words that you have told me
Hang frozen in the air
And sometimes I look right through them
As if they were not there

And the boys from North Dakota
They drink whisky for their fun
And the cowboys down in Texas
They polish up their guns
And they look across the border
To learn the ways of love

Sorry, Lyle...Zappa would wanna kick you in the ass for that one. I know I do. I think I'll take two long looks at my sleeping boys and call myself optimistic in the morning.
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