Guilty!

So, remember way back in January when my phone was stolen from me? What? You don’t remember all of the details of my life? Gah.

Well, anyway, the two kids who took it finally had their day in court this week.

I got a summons a few months ago in the mail telling me to show up at the juvenile courts at 9:00am. My incredibly supportive husband took the day off from work so that he could be there with me to hold my hand, since I really had no idea what to expect. And I was a bit concerned that I hadn’t heard about what to expect from the state attorney–the last I’d heard, they were going to pursue the case if they could, but the evidence just wasn’t that great.

Anyway, I showed up in court that morning, we waited for an hour (and one of the boys had the audacity to sit near me while we waited!), and finally met with the state attorney who told us that the case was going to be postponed. The interesting thing–or perhaps terrifically sad thing–was why. One of the two boys who took my phone (the one who actually took it, whom I will call E for purposes of this story), was on probation at the time of the crime against me, and since then had committed another crime.

E is clearly one of those kids who is going to wind up in jail for a long time, it’s just a matter of how many crimes he will commit before then.

Because of the new crime, and because my case wasn’t great in terms of having enough evidence to definitely convict, the state attorney wanted to lump them all together and give the guy a plea bargain–including more severe probation requirements, etc. But that had to happen later, so we could go home that day.

A month later, I went back to court for the new court date… just to get a phone call when I was walking in the door saying that it was going to be postponed again.

Finally, though, on Wednesday, I went to court… and stayed in court until it was over. I found out that that morning, E had been given a plea, which he accepted. He admitted guilt in committing the crime against me. The sentence hasn’t happened yet, but one of the items will be a restraining order against any illegal activity against me (which seems strange, because I feel like we are all supposedly restrained from illegal activity, but if he breaks the restraining order it is easier to give swift justice because of breaking a court order on top of having to prove a crime. Or something.).

The other boy, D, was also offered a plea, but rejected it. He wanted to go to trial. And I would have to testify as to what happened. The state attorney made it clear that we still didn’t have a super strong case against him. I didn’t see who took my phone (I know E took it because of inadmissible evidence–hearsay from their principal, who refused to testify), I didn’t see their faces when it happened, etc.

So we went to trial. Both the public defender and the state attorney waived their right to opening statements, so the very first thing that happened after everyone was sworn in (D, me, and the police officers on duty at the time), was I had to get on the stand and testify.

I was nervous. Not only was I having to talk in front of people (which I’m really not good at), not only did I have to say all of this in front of someone who had committed a crime against me, but I also was supposed to recall, with details, events that happened 7 months ago. And I’m pregnant–I can’t remember what I had for breakfast!

The state attorney went first, and I got to tell what I remembered in pieces, afterwards kicking myself for not giving more details. I remembered being on the phone with my mom, noticing two figures on either side of me, the phone being taken, turning around and seeing two black boys–one taller than the other, the taller one with dreadlocks in his hair–running away from me. I saw one of them get on a bus, and the other one not get on the bus. I screamed, a bunch of people stopped the bus, the police came, they found the other boy, and I IDed him from the police car based on his height (he’s quite tall), the clothes he was wearing, and his hair. I was asked if I remember what he was wearing, and I said that I don’t now, but at the time I did, and it was the same thing.

The defense got a turn to ask me questions, and I’d been told that she would try to confuse me and make me say stuff that didn’t make sense. She didn’t ask me much at all though, and that ended quickly.

At one point during my testimony, the public defender objected to something I was saying… and it really was dramatic like it is in the books and on TV. OBJECTION! Seriously, when someone interrupts you to object to what you’re saying, it really throws a wrench into remembering what your train of thought was! Plus, it sort of feels insulting, while I realize it isn’t actually personal.

Then I was asked to leave the courtroom while the other witnesses testified. One of the police officers went in, and D would have the opportunity to testify if he chose.

I was allowed back into the courtroom for the closing statements and the verdict. The public defender’s closing arguments weren’t very coherently put together, I thought. She said a lot of stuff that didn’t seem relevant (that I didn’t specify if the person running away had dreadlocks or braids, that E had braids). The state attorney’s closing was much better, in my opinion.

And then the judge gave his verdict. He talked through his thought process, and his stream of consciousness as he listened to all of the witnesses. He thought I was credible (yay!). And it turned out that when D got on the stand to defend himself, his version of events didn’t agree with mine–he said that he remembered one person running up to me (E), and then one person running away. He ran away because he had marijuana in his pocket and thought the police were going to arrest him because of that. And he said that lots of the boys at the bus stop had dreads or braids, so, as I didn’t remember any faces, to single him out based solely on his hair doesn’t mean it was him.

The judge basically had to choose who was a more credible witness–me, or D. He said the fact that I didn’t remember all the details made me more credible, because I clearly wasn’t trying to make stuff up or invent what happened.

And he decided that D was guilty on all counts–including a felony. I’m not sure exactly what all the counts were, but I was shocked. I really wasn’t expecting him to get a guilty verdict at all, let alone a felony.

Sentencing will happen later, and I have the right to know what the final sentence is for both boys. I will write a victim’s impact statement saying the impact this had on my family, which will be read to the judge for him to consider when he determines the sentences.

I am so glad that I was able to come home and tell my sweet babies that the two boys who took my phone were going to get punished for doing the wrong thing. It’s nice to be able to tell my kids, at least in this instance, that the system worked.

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2 responses to “Guilty!

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