Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The trial is adjourned for Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago I walked into a Federal Courtroom. I had been assigned a number and we had been placed in order. There were 35 of us. Federal Courtrooms are quite large. This one was all wood paneled with large portraits of former judges on the walls. Everyone was standing except for the judge. When I got in the room I was struck by what I heard. A man was singing. He was singing a hymn. I knew it was a man even though the voice sounded like a small boy. Never has such a soft sound pierced me to the core like that. But it wasn't just the voice, it was the source of the voice, the circumstance of the voice. The voice belonged to the defendant, Brian David Mitchell.

Brian David Mitchell is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart from her home, keeping her captive, and raping her daily for the period of nine months.

When we had all reached our places the Clerk of the Court told everyone they could be seated. The Judge told the defendant that he had a constitutional right to be present during the proceedings but he would have him removed unless he stopped singing. He didn't and we waited while he was removed and taken to a room with a video feed. Then I and the other prospective jurors were sworn in. All but one of us were then excused and went back to the juror's lounge to wait our turn to be questioned by the attorneys in the case. I would wait all day until the court adjourned. I would return the next day and along with some new people, wait until my turn came to take the stand.

That night I received a phone call telling me to return again the next day. I was in the pool of 30 from which the 12 jurors and 2 alternates would be selected. We would again walk into the courtroom to the sound of singing. I sat behind the court artist and watched her drawing the defendant in chalk. Mitchell was lead out again and I watched him leave. When I turned back to the artist I caught sight of something that pushed me back on my seat. Elizabeth Smart, her sister, and her parents took seats two rows in front of me.

Since her kidnapping and recovery eight years ago Elizabeth Smart graduated from Brigham Young University. She is serving as a Mormon Missionary in Paris and was brought home for the trial. Elizabeth is a beautiful young woman and has a glow to her that made me think that this is not a woman who was kidnapped and raped. She smiled at someone and her smile was like that of an angel.

The Judge explained what was going to happen next. All the juror's numbers were on two sheets of blue paper that would now be passed back and forth between the prosecutors and the defense attorneys. They would be eliminating jurors until there were 14 numbers left. They would look at the blue papers, then their notes, and sometimes at us until they had the final 14. The papers were handed to the Judge. He looked at them then handed them back to the clerk.

The clerk announced that as she read the numbers she would be assigning new numbers to the jurors. She asked that any juror rise if his or her number was called. Then she started. The numbers came toward my number and then passed by. The man sitting next to me stood up. When there were 14 jurors standing the rest of us stood so that the jurors could make their way to the juror's box. I walked out of the courtroom and the trial began.

I walked out of the courthouse and took the train back to where I parked my car and then drove home.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Teddy's down on his luck

Teddy's down on his luck, originally uploaded by Dan Lilly.

Since the Olympics Vancouver has been cleaning up East Hastings. This park no longer exists as you see it here. The problems still exist. They've just moved them

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