This week was my turn to serve my community as a jurist. Several things about the experience is worth, in my opinion, sharing and venting about. The county needed to sit two juries this week, so summoned a total of 256 citizens to choose from. 75 of us showed up. The rest were sited for contempt of court and fined $500.00 each. (Do the math! That’s quite a chunk of change…) My concern with this lack of civic responsibility is it is one of the complaints one hears… ‘The jury was crooked… The system just sucks! The criminals run the court house and can get away with anything!’ If less then a third of citizens who are summoned respond, what does that say about the citizenry?
The case was 27 counts, each read aloud which took about 23 minutes, of anal, oral and vaginal assault on a child under the age of 13. The little girl was 7. The initial crime was perpetrated by her father. As far as I am concerned, after her outcry to a friends mother she did not know, nearly every other adult around her should have been charged with something… She told her “granny” (the perps mother) how her daddy was hurting her, who told her she was not to say that. She told her mother, who is dumber then a box of cornflakes her daddy put his “deal in her private part and it hurt” who asked her Mother in law what to do… She finally told a stranger. We were given testimony from law enforcement, counselors, forensic interviewers, SANE medical person, her mother- We saw recorded images of the pretty little girl, fine and loquacious describing, in awful exacting detail all her father did to her- where, how, what, when- Including the threats that if she told or yelled out, he would do it harder. We were shown letters she brought to her counselors from home saying her father didn’t really do it, that it was someone else… this after her mother took her to jail to visit her father… And her grand mother told her she was the cause of the family turmoil– Imagine the life of this girl! She should be watching cartoons and riding her bike- which was also used as a threat against her by her father- She would perform oral sex on him, or he would throw away her bike.
We were preparing to hear the little girls testimony, when we were asked to leave the room. A while later we returned to the court room and were informed the father had decided to opt for a plea. I think it was because his lawyer could probably see that even though we as a jury were not allowed to discuss the case, even with each other, our expressions alone did not bode well for his client- making the baby sit in front of all of us and testify could not help.
Each count was worth 12.5 years. He plead to one count and said he wouldn’t make his daughter testify. The judge took it and tacked on her (the little girls) current age, which is 10, and the years he had been molesting her, which was 3. He is 36 years old. She (the judge) is fairly positive he will serve all 25 years, since any early parole will need to go through her. The girl will be 35.
Part of me wishes we, the jury, could have meted out the penalty, as he would not ever see the light of day outside- but the human part of me agrees that the girl had been through enough.
I have had many emotions these past few days. Anger. Sadness. Pity. Violence. Shock. Dirty. Disgusted. Helpless. And that’s just living in it for 3 days as an observer. This is the kind of case that you really can’t come away from feeling clean. Or even good.
I hope the girl stays in therapy and that what ever is left of her childhood is safe. We were told her mother and grandmother will be keeping her. They who told her she had it wrong, that it must have been someone else. They who told her to write a book about how much she loved her daddy and give it to her therapist to help get him home. They who took a victim to visit her abuser every week for 3 months until the state caught them.
My god. What can we do for these children?