What I write here is a side product of my efforts to obtain barebones knowledge of what takes place in a courthouse and flesh it out with what I observed, listened to and learned during time spent in that environment. The fictional character in the book I am writing will be very comfortable in this environment and I want locations to be believable even though I am writing fiction.
1, 2, 3, 4, if left alone, would there have been more?
On the surface, this looks like a riddle presented by a mommy or daddy and innocent enough for a child to try to guess, it is not.
My creation of this riddle, for lack of a better word prefaces my take of what took 8 days of my sitting in a courtroom taking notes most of which will go no further than that paper. As a matter of fact, my pages of notes are a giant mess. I did not take on this task to study one or more cases. I intended to study the process, the players, and their interactions in it. This would provide me with visuals, memories, and experiences to flow in and out of my writing as desired.
The case is blocking my ability to write my book. I need closure on opinions, feelings and emotions, along with some surprising revelations of experiences in my own past that are putting the brakes on my ‘hamster on the spinning wheel’ mind I possess.
The case involved a white male age 43 arrested and charged with one count of sexual molestation of a juvenile, three counts of aggravated incest, and one count of sexual battery. The defendant, the stepfather of the three sisters. The first complaint and investigation came around 2002. One by one, the girls filed complaints that went through the proper channels and agencies, complaints then investigated, with one or more actions or recommendations made in an effort to protect the girls. One by one, the three young girls unable to take this stepfathers version of “horseplay” left the home to live elsewhere. Finally, when all the victims were no longer available the man turned to one of his neighbor’s children, a daughter. It was this event that if I understand correctly finally gave the state a strong case. I want so badly to get into details, this cannot happen. I am not prepared with accurate dates, facts, and other pertinent information necessary to create a piece that delves into this horrific situation.
How this started for me:
As I walked up the wide marble steps of this 1915 Parish Courthouse and into the Clerk of the Court – Criminal Court office, I had no idea where this first step of my information gathering might eventually lead.
I exchanged greetings and smiles with the warm and friendly person who I hoped would assist me in starting my fact to fiction journey in order to provide a believable story line to my main character.
I needed to know if an observer could just walk into a courtroom, sit, and soak up whatever was taking place in order to establish feelings and minimum knowledge of the processes taking place. In less then five minutes I learned no public court dockets or calendars are available announcing various on going or upcoming legal proceedings. I was told a case was coming up the following Monday I might be interested in, I left with wondering if the case would be one version of a routine cut and dried court proceeding; it most certainly was not.
What I can relate in this blog is the following, which are a combination of what I heard and observed in the courtroom, my take on some of this, my own life experiences, observations, and plain old gut feelings.
Before I run out of steam there is some recognition that needs to be given, and unless I miss my guess this recognition seldom comes to those involved, and then in technical or trade periodicals, among peers, or across the desk from ones supervisor.
From the onset of the first referral around 2001 to an agency designed to protect children , to the sentencing taking place in December 2010 I would venture to guess untold hours were spent just on this one case. To bring this case together must have involved hours of investigation, information and evidence gathering, planning and decision-making. Documentation of telephone calls, interviews, meetings, filings, and hearings, checking and following the letter of the law in each step. Planning, bringing chunk by chunk of all this time and space into cohesive pieces to use when and as needed. During the course of interviewing the victims, skill sets may require adjustment from guidelines that cannot be specific to every situation. Interviewing juveniles in order to get the truth from the individuals who bring to the table a blending of emotions, level of maturity, circumstance, environment, and their own take on what is the truth and what is not. Justice may be blind, but what that means is she does not take all these things into consideration if the job and the effort are not thorough and according to law.
Some of my own thoughts: Child porn receives much deserved attention by the general public and our legal system, along with the use of the internet to use-and-abuse juveniles for pleasure and obtaining sexual satisfaction. Oversight of use and abuse of a juvenile by someone living in the home or visiting the home is often too personal and out of bounds for a major portion of the population to want to think about. Add to this is the learned behavior of a predator to limit their prey to those times and those areas that provide optimum opportunity to prey on their victims, with minimum chance of their action being exposed. Predators have an ability to behave in manners that make any accusations against them unbelievable to friends, relative, or even spouses. Many times the abused accused of lying punished and made to feel they brought it on themselves. For some of the abused then, it is easier to go along with what others want and need to believe.
There was no sexual intercourse involved in this case; however, it is in my opinion absurd to minimize the amount of damage caused to the victims and the long lasting effects. Several pages added to this could address the ripple effect through other family members and friends. Victim impact-statements and statements from family and friends in defense of the defendant, if one is to believe them to their fullest extent, indicate negative changes in lives and affect family relationships for years if not forever.
Complicating this is the fact that there is a possibility that a non-victim may make false or exaggerated accusations for their own benefit against a person who actually is a predator. In such a situation, this non-victim may damage the case for actual crimes against other victims. The non-victims testimony once judged to be false or exaggerated may weaken the case and even result in a lesser sentence than the predator deserves.
My take on motherhood: Contrary to some beliefs, woman who give birth to one or more children do not all have a strong maternal instinct. In fact, some do not have any at all. The range between “I will kill to protect my child” to killing a child before it is even born is complicated by influencing factors brought into play by a deliberate choice because it is more convenient; or by circumstances beyond the control of or more factors.
Based on what I observed and listened to, I have specific feelings and opinions about the mother of these children, it is not my place to judge, and my intent is to do no harm with this piece.
The defendant found guilty on all five charges bail set at $120,000 and sentencing scheduled to take l take place December 17, 2010.
Motions by the defense for a new trial denied. Sentencing took place as scheduled. The guilty verdict resulted in each of the first three counts involving the three stepchildren a five-year sentence with each of the five years to run concurrently. The fourth count brought 7 years to start after the completion of the first sentence. The fifth brought 2 years to start after the completion of the 7 years. Bail denied during the appeal process.
I have a regret regarding this blog piece; I could not include a transcript of the statements made to the defendant by the Judge during sentencing. It spoke to me about how the loss of trust and innocence take place due to these negative experiences such as these perpetrated on these four young women. These experiences create holes in soul. How each child fills these holes as they grow and learns to deal with life during and after these tragedies take place take many forms. Unfortunately, some of these are destructive with long lasting effects that join forces with long lasting memories of the abuse(s) that started the process.
Nietzsche, himself a considerable classicist, wrote of the Greek biographer Diogenes that he is ‘by accident the clumsy watchman guarding treasure whose value he does not know’. For me the watchman is the parent, the treasure is the child.