The prosecutor explains that there is a video of the event, one that shows the defendant stabbing the victim in the heart. He goes step by step through how the video plays out, painstakingly taking us through the event, and describing each horrid detail. We will be watching this video, probably a number of times, and it will be dissected and viewed from every possible speed and angle. It was not a stationary video taken from a distant surveillance camera, but rather by one of the bystanders in the crowd, who filmed it with his phone and followed the action in the two minutes it all unfolded – in the two minutes in which the victim was killed.
Usually when something is hinted at, the fear and the build-up is worse than the actual event. In this case, my mind could not conjure what was now being described as on the video we would be watching. The reality was proving far more frightening than anything the mind might create. I don’t remember the last time, if ever, I saw a person being killed by another person – certainly not this way, not by a knife through the heart.
I didn’t expect the video to be shown so soon. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. And perhaps it’s better that there was no time to prepare. I could watch it cold and get my gut reaction.
It is both less and more disturbing than I originally envisioned ~ less in that there are no close-ups, no major blood-letting, but more in that such a seemingly casual day at the park, with the late-afternoon sun slanting into the gorgeous golden hour, could turn so literally deadly.
It is the first time we get to see the victim. In sometimes jerky camera movements, in full color and largely projected on the immense wall before us, he stands a few feet from the defendant. A group swirls about them as they circle each other. There is an undeniable push by the defendant, and a general backing up by the victim. Still, it is hard to discern what is happening without the narrative previously supplied by the prosecutor, and that’s his job. Knowing how it ends makes it more disturbing to watch.
The stabbing is sudden and quick, and if you didn’t know what was going on you might even miss it. But seconds later, after the short, quick burst of a chase, the victim falls down on the front lawn of someone’s home. The video ends there.
Somehow I know this is not the only side to the story, and the analytical part of me wonders how the defense attorney is going to paint this when such a video exists. He begins by going into the background of how the two young men involved never liked each other, and it had been that way for a year or two before the incident. Each side makes a compelling argument, even with the video on hand, and there is more than most people have seen to shade our analysis.
When the two sides have made their statements, I take a deep breath. I will not go into the details here. It is a matter of public record if you want them, and even then you’ll only be left with a general idea of what we the jurors saw. And remember, not one of us on that jury had an inkling of the public perception or news reporting of this case (skewed even on their most supposedly-accurate day).
I haven’t seen a single episode of ‘CSI’ or ‘Law & Order’, and the last law-related thing I can remember watching was ‘L.A. Law’ because someone fell down an elevator shaft. I don’t know if anything would have prepared me for this sort of case anyway. I scan the weary faces of the families in the courtroom. I study the profile of the defendant. I try to envision the face of the victim – we have not seen a clear picture of him yet, at least I don’t have a clear image of him, even with that video. I wonder which ones will haunt me the most.
The boy who recorded the video with his phone is called as a witness. When asked why he finally stopped filming, he said it was to call 911. He is still a teenager. His eyes remain mostly downcast. He does little more than mumble, and is asked to speak up. All of the parties involved in this case are just out of childhood. What do you do with the rest of your life after that, if you still have it?
That night, I step outside and dive into our pool. Above me, the Big Dipper dots the darkened sky. I float there, looking up at the stars, and cherishing my freedom. Is it blasphemy to so gorge myself and revel in my luck? How many two-minute moments of regretful acts might I have had were it not for various twists of fate? I wonder if either the defendant or the victim liked to swim, if they ever had the opportunity to swim, and if they ever found joy in the years leading up to the afternoon when everything changed for them.Back to Blog