So, I know that this is like...several weeks late. Sorry...life kinda happened, but now you can get the story. :)
I THROW MY HANDS IN THE AIR SOMETIMES SINGING AAAAAAAAAAYYYYYOOOOOOO!! I'M FINALLY DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE!!!
Okay, so that doesn't really rhyme, but admit it, you sang it. :P
I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders! After sitting for almost forty-five minutes in a courtroom with my parents, the defendant, the defense attorney, prosecutor, and a couple other people waiting for the judge, the trial had begun! He didn't look like a criminal, aside from the waist handcuffs and the bright orange jumpsuit.
It was weird, sitting in the same room as the man who'd broken into my house a year ago. The same man who came into my bedroom and stared at me. The same man who ran. The same man who slammed my elbow in the door. The same man who left so much fear in my life.
We had only just sit down in the courtroom, which was not what they look like in the movies, when the prosecutor pulled out us back out of the room, saying, “So this has never happened before in a case like this, but the defendant has written you a letter.”
I gaped at him, very unattractively. “He did what?” I squeaked. I honestly had no thoughts or words that made sense. I had not expected this. It was my job to make a personal statement right? It was my job to make a statement, not his. Or was my understanding of court and trial completely skewed and incorrect? After a few moments of thinking, I decided to read the letter after the trial was over, so that I wouldn’t be swayed by the words he wrote down.
And sorry, no, I’m not going to tell you what he wrote. Some may think that he didn’t actually write the letter, that someone else wrote it for him. Some may say that he only said he wanted to apologize but someone else wrote the words. Some may claim that he was told by his attorney that he should say something and then thus was provided with something to give to me. Whatever you guys think about this is fine, but I believe that he either personally wrote it or dictated the letter. I believe that he meant it.
You may think me foolish. Maybe I am. But if wanting to believe the best in people, even those who have committed a crime against me, then yes I am very foolish. And I wouldn’t want to change that about myself.
Finally, the trial started. They went through all the formalities that I won’t go into detail about because frankly, I wasn’t paying attention. I just wanted to get up on the stand and get my part over with. But I had to wait for three people to talk first.
The first witness to go on the stand was my dad. The prosecutor attorney went through the whole scenario, asking questions simply for the purpose of court to hear the entire scenario and what happened on my dad’s end. At the end of the questioning, which wasn’t stressful as there was no cross-examining, Dad was asked if he wanted to say anything to the man who broke in. Dad looked across the room, into the eyes of this man, and said thank you. “Thank you for not causing any harm to my daughter. Thank you for leaving.” Honestly, he could have done so much more than simply slamming the door on my elbow. He came into my bedroom for goodness sakes!
But of all the things my dad could have said to him, he was grateful to this man. I have never been prouder of my father.
Mom’s turn was next. She was asked the same questions as Dad, and told her side of the story, the different feelings she experienced. When she had the chance to say something to the defendant, she looked him in the eyes as well, as a couple tears started trickling down her face. “What you took from our house that day, was so miniscule, so small. But what you left in our house was so big and overwhelming. You left fear in our house.”
When Mom sat back down, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to comfort her, but Mom and I are very different in the way that she needs to be hugged or have her hand held or touched to be comforted, where I usually want you to leave me alone and let me work through it if I’m in public. If I am crying in public, I usually am embarrassed that I’m being emotional and thus being hugged without my initiating it makes it worse. I gently patted her hand, but scooted closer to Dad, trying to being comforting without making it uncomfortable for me.
Yeah, slightly selfish. I get that. Sorry.
Next it was one of the detectives, the woman who I met with soon after the break in actually happened. They showed a clip of her interview with the defendant and it was in that moment that I understood something about this man. He has two little children. Suddenly, I wanted to jump up and say whatever I could to get him as little time as possible so he could be able to take care of his kids. But I knew that he had to pay the price for his actions.
Finally, it was my turn. Suddenly my throat dried up and I started to shake. Being called to the witness stand was certainly something I never saw myself doing. Getting up there, the prosecutor asked me to explain what happened that day. So I went through the whole story again. I wrung my hands constantly in my lap, trying to distract myself partially from reality. As I told the story, my mind began to revert back to that day, going through the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing from when they started pounding on the doors to when I started choke sobbing to the 911 operator, telling them where I lived so they could send help.
The prosecutor, after I finished my story, said that they had my 911 call ready to play as evidence, and asked if it was alright if they played it. I gave him a skeptical look, unsure of how to answer the question. “Sure?” I replied, knowing they were going to play it eventually anyway. In our meeting with the prosecutor the week before, they’d played it for me twice, just so we all would be prepared for the actual trial.
The first thing you hear on the 911 call is harsh breathing, and then a sick thud of the door slamming on my elbow, and me running into it. Then you hear a bunch of garbled words explode from my mouth. Then I shriek these words: “Please! Just go AWAY!!” During the entire recording, I closed my eyes, hoping that I would keep it together. I squeezed my hands a little too tight, wrenching my fingers together. All I could think about was not crying. I didn’t want to cry. I was determined not to.
After finishing that short, but agonizing terror again, I opened my eyes, and blinked back the tears that welled up behind my eyelids. Then, it was my turn to make my statement to the defendant. The statement I’d been waiting since January to make. I took a few seconds to breathe and think, unfolding my paper, refusing to look at anyone. With a dry throat and a shaking voice, I began to talk.
When I had finished, the defendant looked as if he was about to cry or something. He shook his head and whispered, “I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt…” He sounded so broken. In the year he spent in jail, he’s had a lot of time to think about what he did. And I truly believe that he is remorseful over that fact, even though the prosecutor doesn’t think so.
It was at this point where the judge looked at me, and warmed my heart with words of great encouragement. After I’d gone back to sit with my parents, and endure the hugs and pats from both of them, the judge looked at me, knowing that she was not going to get to see me again and she had something to say to me. “Most people come into this room and are full of bitterness and anger, but you three are different. You bring messages of hope and thankfulness that nothing worse happened. Angelica, your poise is impressive. You are such a bright light and these words of forgiveness you have brought are so rare.” (This is based on my memory, not precise quotes.) I felt so…strong in that moment. It still warms my heart to this day, remembering those kind words of pride and encouragement from a judge! Of all people! My attitude and poise and spirit impressed everyone in that courtroom. I didn’t intend it to be that way. It just…happened. All because I was determined to seem strong.
The next thirty minutes was the boring, although rather intense, part of the trial where the prosecutor and defense attorney took turns making their arguments to the judge. It was during this time that I learned that the defendant is an admitted heroin addict and was under influence of drugs at the time of the robbery as well as the interviews where he refused to cooperate with the detectives in regards to identifying his accomplice. I also learned that in cases like this, where the defendant is already guilty, I prefer the defense attorney to the prosecutor as the defense attorney is paid to see the potential in other people, which is something I do naturally anyway, while the prosecutor beats the criminal down and doesn’t see any hope in the situation for the defendant.
During the prosecutor’s argument however, in his loud rampage, bellowed, “…and I’m going to play Angelica’s 911 phone call again because it is a very compelling piece of evidence that captures the terror she felt that day!!” I just stared at him, thinking, “Excuse me, but did you not think to ask me or think that I might not appreciate hearing me screaming again?” But my time to talk was over, so I remained silent. Instead, I wrapped my arms around Daddy’s arm and bit my finger, squeezing my eyes, refusing to give into the tears and the emotions. But soon, it was over, and we could leave, and I could go home.
I made myself not cry, except for a little leak during the second time they played my 911 call. I still haven’t cried. Yes, I am aware of how unhealthy it is to hold in my emotions like that. I haven’t reached a breaking point yet…however I feel as if I’m getting close. I just have this…problem where I choke my emotions sometimes in hopes of not having a complete breakdown that will embarrass me. I’m sure that one of these days, it’ll catch up to me. But for now, I’m done! And hopefully, I will never have to experience something like this again, although I wouldn’t trade the events for anything in the world. And I truly mean that.