I’d never set foot in a courtroom before this morning. What can I say,
I’ve never been caught before I’m just an outstanding citizen. Each time I have been called up for jury duty I’ve either been in the middle of a mental health crisis or getting tumours chopped out of my body and so haven’t been able to attend. I know most people are begging for valid reasons to get out of jury duty but weirdly it’s something that I wanted to do. It fascinates me, and yeah, maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Law & Order and started romanticising it all…
Anyhoo, the reason I was in court was purely to support Mr 17. No, my son wasn’t in trouble with the law either, in fact he was a witness in a domestic violence case and I’m very proud of him for being willing to stand up and testify.
Back in the shit show that was 2020, Mr then 16 had just knocked off work one afternoon and was walking down the street towards a nearby shopping centre when he heard a person yell out to him. He’d looked up and seen a woman hanging out of the second storey window of one of the houses. She’d yelled at him to call the police saying that her boyfriend had locked her in the room and he was coming back. She’d sounded terrified and quickly ducked back out of sight.
Mr 16 called the police straight away, told them what happened and kept walking, scared that this seemingly dangerous boyfriend might return at any moment. The police had taken his details over the phone and contacted him later that afternoon about making a statement. He’d gone in and made the statement and was asked if he’d be willing to testify in court, which he’d obviously agreed to and because the legal system is
fundamentally flawed backed up due to Covid, the case is only just being heard now.
So because Mr17 had to go to work after he appeared and I needed to get my pre-chemo blood work done we decided to take our own cars and meet up at the courtroom at 9:30am. Unfortunately despite having the worlds best intentions I
am painfully unreliable had to make a pit stop on the trek into town. Sadly ileostomies can have minds of their own and don’t particularly care if you have an appointment to attend. Of course a very, very old lady beat me to the only disabled toilet available and I ended up getting there late.
We had been warned it could be a full day of waiting around but no doubt due to my tardiness it was the first case of the day. Luckily when I got there Mr 17 hadn’t been called up yet and was waiting in the foyer for me. We had to walk through a metal detector like at
a US elementary school the airport and put our things on a little conveyer belt through an X-ray machine.
As I walked through the scanner I was very conscious of the fact that I’d grabbed a different hand bag to my usual one and hoped to dear God there was nothing weird or unacceptably pointy in one of the compartments.
The cop who’d been dealing with the case was waiting there for us, he introduced himself to me but I can’t remember his name now, let’s call him Ben, he looked like a Ben. Anyway Officer Ben gave Mr17 some paperwork to fill out thanking him profusely for turning up. In my opinion he seemed a little too grateful that he was willing to testify, which made me a touch concerned about the capabilities of the person being charged but realistically 17 had only witnessed a person who seemed frightened asking for him to call police, he didn’t see anyone actually harming the woman so it’s not like his testimony was identifying the defendant.
We got the you’re up in two minutes warning and Ben gave us a quick run down of the formalities, it’s expected to bow as you enter the courtroom as a show of respect, not for the magistrate but for the crown above him and to try and keep answers to questions as brief as possible and preferably stick to yes or no.
We walked into the room and bowed awkwardly, 17 was directed towards a bench at the front and I sat at the back behind a mostly bald guy with a desperately hanging on ponytail in a suit that was too big for him and white sneakers. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing he was the defendant. The magistrate was kind and could see 17 was understandably nervous, he gently guided him to stand and make the oath asking him if he wanted to swear on the bible or make an affirmation if he didn’t believe in God. I’d always wondered how the courts dealt with atheists.
First Mr 17 stated what he had witnessed then it was time for the defendants lawyer to ask him stupid questions.
- “Do you live in the neighbourhood?” No.
- “Are you familiar with the streets in that area?” Yes.
- Have you seen people around there hanging out of windows screaming before? No…
- Have you seen people on the streets of the neighbourhood screaming at each other before? No…
- Why did you leave the scene after calling the police? I felt unsafe.
- Why did you think you were unsafe? I was scared the boyfriend would come back.
- Why did that scare you? He sounded dangerous. The woman seemed really scared, I didn’t want to get hurt.
- Is it possible that the woman was just pretending, making up stories or that she just had a mental health condition? No, I don’t think so.
- At any point did it occur to you to go into the home and help the woman? No
- Really? Why not? Surely if you thought she was in danger you would want to go in and help her? No, I thought it was too dangerous.
The ‘haven’t you seen this sort of thing on the streets of this neighbourhood before?’ Question made me giggle because the lawyer appeared genuinely surprised when 17 said no. It’s not a great area and I personally have seen a number of altercations there, but 17 at the time of the incident didn’t have his drivers license yet and 99% of the time was picked up and dropped off directly from his work place so he wasn’t really exposed to any of that.
The ‘could it be a mental health episode’ condition question pissed me off because #stigma, but the “why didn’t you go in and help her?” That question made me want to go over and slap the lawyer.
Really? You’re going to guilt trip a child for not playing hero? He called the fucking police straightaway. Do you mean to tell me you would prefer your 16 year old kid to run into a potentially dangerous situation with no regard for their own safety? And how is that relevant anyway? Fuckwit.
We were allowed to leave as soon as the testimony was over. Ben praised Mr 17 for doing a great job and I commented on how he was absolutely under no circumstances expected to go into the house and put himself in danger to help the woman and the lawyer was a dickhead for suggesting it. Ben agreed and said he’d done exactly the right thing by calling the police and thanked him again for coming.
The lawyers dicky question wasn’t exactly unusual for a defence lawyer, 17 wasn’t bothered by it, he knew he’d done the right thing in the situation but it had really riled up my mind’s cohabitants and I was feeling a weird yet powerfully overwhelming combination of anger, sadness, fear and shame.
As I drove home I cross examined the reasoning behind these feelings. Yes, as a parent it obviously brought out protective instincts, ‘don’t suggest my child should be put in danger!’ Anger was circulating particularly through V who was muttering about how 17 is still a child and there should be rules about how lawyers talk to kids. But it was so much more than that. The comment also stung because I realised had I been in 17’s shoes being given the impression I hadn’t done everything in my power to help someone, I would have crumbled.
Overall we have a need to fix things. But there’s a part of us who would and has rushed into danger without thinking, under the impression they might be able to save someone. This is not some hero complex, they’re not after admiration or even justice for the victim. It’s a fear driven, shame driven reaction. A need to protect ourselves against judgement from others for potentially not being good enough.
This part is a child, they’re painfully impulsive and have absolutely no regard for consequences nor they’re own safety. They are triggered out when they feel a person is in danger, unless it’s an adult hurting a child, then they run or if it’s us who is in danger, then they freeze.
This has caused us problems in the past as we don’t have any control over it. For example (a story I will tell properly another time) when we were 17 yrs old ourselves we had arrived on the scene of a serious assault taking place, we had our young baby in our arms one minute and the next thing I knew I was watching from somewhere in the ether as we physically rushed in between two huge, angry, drug affected men wielding weapons to try to stop them killing each other.
Luckily we weren’t injured that day but these sort of impulsive reactions can put not only ourself at risk but our children too, and that is not okay. Sorry, this got long fast but I guess that’s why the lawyers comment had rattled us so much, I’m just so glad Mr 17 held his ground and knows and believes what he did was the most appropriate thing for the situation. I’m proud of him.