Saturday, June 17, 2017

Terror off the Nature Trail - Witness for the State

On September 25, 1789, the Congress of the United States passed the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution granting a cluster of rights to the accused, one of which was the right to a speedy trial.  However, the accused in this case, probably at the advice of his lawyer, waived that right and that began a long, drawn out 15 month process.  A lot can happen in 15 months.

Just as the detective mentioned, I did get a follow up call on what I witnessed.  The call came from one of our Assistant District Attorneys (ADA) who filled me in on the details of the case.

As it turned out, the woman was married to the gunman but had a restraining order against him.  The man walking with her was a coworker.  Pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.

They ADA also mentioned that the woman had agreed to press charges and since he pleaded not guilty, there would be a trial at some point and I would be needed as a witness.  One other thing he mentioned, the accused had bonded out of jail.

An uneasy feeling came over me in regards to the accused bonding out.  However, I did not mention any of this to the ADA.  The ADA said he would stay in contact as the case progressed.

Months went by without any word on the trial, which was fine by me.  As the time progressed though, I found that I was feeling more and more uneasy about testifying.  Thoughts of retribution, if I testified against this guy in open court, lingered in my mind.  Fear.

About this time I had other thoughts on my mind totally unrelated to the trial.  The rumors of more layoffs at work were getting stronger and more frequent.  This was a punch in the gut to me as one of the main reasons I joined Hewlett-Packard was the fact that since Bill Hewlett and David Packard started the company in 1939, they never had a layoff.  Instead they would do an across the board 10% reduction in pay and employees would take a day off work every other week until things improved.  I sure liked that approach.

A few more months passed without any further word on the trial so I decided to call the ADA.  I asked if something happened and maybe I was off the hook for testifying.   I was hoping that was the case.  The ADA said there was a setback in the case.  The woman decided she no longer wanted to  press charges.  The ADA said this happens from time to time in domestic abuse cases where the accused promises a change, won’t do it again, is sorry, etc.  The ADA said that the state was going to bring charges against the guy specifically for, not only carrying a gun in a government owned park, but also for firing it at someone.  I was not off the hook.  He said he’d get back to me as plan “B” progressed.

About a month after that I was laid off from my job at Hewlett-Packard, one of the approximately 30,000 people who were laid off during Carly Fiorina’s reign as the first CEO to be hired from outside the company.  Just my luck.

In retrospect, I suppose I did have some luck.  Prior to the layoff, I was already a part time instructor at a nearby college, teaching two nights a week.  It was sort of like a hobby to me, I enjoyed it, and made a few bucks.  Well the luck was that one of the full-time professors in my discipline was retiring at the end of the semester and they needed to replace him quickly.  I was hired as a “term-to-term” Instructor.  That was the good news, the bad news, I took about a 50% cut in pay.  But I had a job and benefits.

This extended waiting period for the trial continued with very little communication from the ADA.  I suppose this is what can happen when a speedy trial is waived and the accused is not sitting in a jail cell.  Once again, the guy being out of jail was bothering more and more.  I started wondering if he was at the park when I went up there for a run.  My paranoia was increasing.   Since I saw him at a distance when the crime happened, I vaguely knew what he looked like.  Did he know I was going to testify against him?  Could he find out who I was?  Could he look me up, maybe find a picture of me?  From time to time I would see guys at the park that basically fit his description and wonder.  Paranoia is strange thing and I think I tended to think about the worst-case scenarios.  Fear.

The ADA called to let me know that the state’s case was moving along and it would not be too long before a trial date was set.  My paranoia had gotten the best of me by that point and I told him about it.  I started dancing around the idea of not testifying.  He did not like that and was armed with a comeback, “we’ll subpoena you”.  And he went through the whole civic duty thing too.  He also said if the guy does try anything with me, they’d do something about it.  Are you kidding me?  What?  How?  When?  What if I’m already dead from this guy shooting me at the park?  Hey, he’s already tried it once.  I did not like this at all.

The new job was going well except there was one glitch.  I was only a term-to-term hire which meant they would have to re-hire me each term.  Again, a bit more luck came my way.  The college did get the approval to post this job as a full-time, permanent, tenure-track instructor position.   It was a long process but I applied, interviewed, and was offered the tenure-track position.

So there I was, almost 50, way older than the typical new hire tenure-track instructor.  After working in corporate America for the prior 25 years, I had a lot to learn about academia.

One of the things I learned quickly, this tenure-track thing is a game where they make all the rules and if you want tenure, you will conform.  So besides teaching a full load and a few extra courses (for a little bit more money) I was coached, pushed, nudged to get my name “out there” anyway I could.  That meant getting on as many committees as I could and pretty much volunteering for anything that came along.

In the Fall semester each year the college had a Faculty Development Day.  There were no student classes on that day.  Part of that day was dedicated to presenting topics and faculty members would select which topics they wanted to attend.  Since someone had to present the topics, meaning they research something and develop a presentation, and the fact that I was now on that hey look at me, get your name known, tenure-track, I volunteered to present a topic.  I came up with a topic, did the research, created the presentation, everything was good to go for my first Faculty Development Day presentation.

Shortly after that the ADA called me and told me that the trial date had been set.  And, you may have guessed it, the trial date was the same day as the Faculty Development Day.  Wonderful, just wonderful.  So now this trial was causing me negative publicity for the tenure process as I had to back out of my presentation slot.  

How did I get myself into this?

---continued on---  The Trial

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