(continued from: Witness for the State)
Why was I nervous?
Woke up normal time on the day of the trial. Coffee. Bagel. Shower. Shave. But I was off, could feel it. Why was I actually trying to figure out what to wear? I never really try to figure out what to wear, I typically just grab anything that sort of matches, maybe. I suppose just a general feeling of uneasiness totally consumed me. I don’t know, it was just weird like no other day before. But then again I never testified against anyone in court before.
Drove up to the county courthouse and true to form, was early. Grabbed another coffee and just hung around the courthouse and observed everything that was going on. Again, I had never been down this road before. It was surreal.
I finally made my way to the ADA’s office and signed in. The ADA was not at his desk so the receptionist told me to have a seat and he’d be back shortly. Thoughts began racing through my mind of how this trial was going to unfold. The truth, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Sure, just like virtually everyone else in America, I’d seen many courtroom trials on TV. But in reality, none of that seemed to fit with what I was experiencing at that moment.
The ADA showed up, dressed sharp, maybe a better description would be, dressed slick. Thoughts of used car salesman came to my mind, not sure why. This was just another day for him, no big deal.
He took me into his office and started to explain how things were going to happen. Although I really did want to know all of this, my mind for some reason was not ready to receive it. It was similar to when the teacher spoke on a Peanuts cartoon. Wa-wa wa,wa,wa wa-wa-wa. This was just strange. He kept going on and eventually I did zone in to what he was saying. The biggest thing that stood out was, I could not stay for the trial after I testify. What? Why not? Well apparently it’s the law or at least how it works. Once I was finished testifying, I would be dismissed from the court. But I wanted to watch how all of this played out. Oh well, that was not what was going to happen.
Next he started what seemed to be like “coaching”. My brain quickly started wondering is this how it’s suppose to work? Is this allowed? What if the defense attorney asks me if I was coached? What will I say? Stop already! Just stop, over thinking all of this.
After he was through “coaching” me I asked him about the defense attorney. His answers led me to believe that these guys face each all the time in court and it is a competition, more or less, between them. I sort of got the feeling that it was feasible that these guys would actually go out for beers from time to time and each brag about their wins.
The trial started, a little time went by and I was called to the stand.
There I stood just like the movies, “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…”.
Does anyone ever answer “no” to this question?
First up was the prosecuting attorney, that was a piece of cake. Heck, I was his witness. Kid glove questions, just the facts, he lead me through exactly what he wanted me to say. And that part was over.
Next up, the defense attorney. That was a totally different story.
With his first question, I was so confused. This was nothing like I envisioned it.
“How old are you?”
His words were direct like a sharp shooting arrow. My brain immediately went I’m not sure where, but it definitely was not what I expected.
So I answered “49”.
Next he asked “what do you do for a living?”
Okay, okay, he was just getting preliminary info out of the way, I thought.
I answered, “I’m a college instructor”.
“What do you teach?”
I replied “Business Information Systems”.
Next he goes into his first line of defense but starts it with “so old professor Scott, how long were running on that incredibly hot August morning at the park?”
“Old professor Scott”, what is that all about I thought? And what was the question about how long I was running about? I still could not wrap my brain around where he was going and what he was trying to do. So I answered him honestly and said “I was only out for a 45 minute run, maybe about 30 minutes into it”.
He said, “do you run much?”
My reply was “I’m training for a half marathon, so I run a fair amount”.
His facial expression changed. In hindsight, especially because my hair was mostly gray (looked old) and I was running in the summertime Atlanta heat, after 30-45 minutes of running, how that heck could I process anything accurately, especially a shooting, was where he was going with this. Old, exhausted, profusely sweating was the picture I think he was trying to paint for the jury to discredit my testimony. But when I told him I was training for a half marathon, that was a surprise to him and it totally changed his game plan. It was at that point where he dropped this and moved on to another angle.
Next he started asking questions about how I taught my classes at the college. He did ask numerous questions.
I was very confused at that point. He was not asking anything about what I witnessed that day in the park. Where was he going with this? Why was he not asking about the park? My brain was swimming.
The question that stood out the most was a leading question that went like this, “so old professor Scott, isn’t it true that before you give a test to your class, you have to cover all of the material that would be on that test”?
What is this guy doing? That was a stupid question. It’s like asking if water is wet. So I answered the question “yes”.
I do not recall the exact amount of time his questioning took. Time froze and time went on forever. It was surreal. Time did not exist.
When he concluded, I was dismissed from the court. The problem was, I was wired, wired like I’d never been before. I wanted to stay and see how this whole process was going to play out. But I was not allowed.
Wired. What to do, what to do? It was only about 10:00 AM, really could not go to bar and have them line up shots for me (not that I’ve ever done that, but the thought did cross my mind) so that wasn’t really an option. Instead I went to a Starbucks and knocked down shots of espresso.
No other day of my life was like this one.
Back home hours later, late in the day, I called the ADA. Actually I was hoping he’d call me, but he didn’t. I said “what happened?”
The ADA simply said, “he was found guilty”.
This really was not a surprise given what had happened. I asked the ADA what was up with the defense attorney’s questioning of me especially the question about teaching all the material before giving a test.
He laughed and said “he quoted you in his summation”.
What? How? But I was a witness for the prosecution.
He basically said “just like old professor Scott told us, you have cover all the material before you give a test, just like in this case you have to have all the facts and ladies and gentlemen, we do not have all the facts”.
My brain went bonkers! Now I did need to those shots! On some level I actually felt violated. How could this SOB use my words to support his case? Wow!
Then the ADA went on to say, "but that’s not all". After he was found guilty, there was some stipulation that allowed sentencing to take place after a short recess. Well during that recess, the accused, who had a heart condition and took nitroglycerin pills for it, decided to consume an entire bottle of nitroglycerin pills in an attempt to commit suicide.
They rushed him to the hospital, they pumped his stomach, he did not die. In the end, he did end up going to jail.
Justice was served.
Justice was served.
As I said in the very beginning of this, I cannot go by this area without hearing that gunshot in my mind.