Friday, December 28, 2012
Doing My Duty - Part 3
His legs were crossed, and he was leaning back in his chair, his fingers interlaced behind his head.
He was smiling.
Take a moment and picture this scene in your mind. A man with his legs extended, leaning back comfortably in his chair.
He was clean cut, nothing about him appeared untoward.
Beside him was sat his attorney.
This was the defendant, at about ten minutes after the arrival of the jurors into the courtroom.
I recall noticing how at ease he was. He was the picture of relaxation. He didn't appear to be at all concerned with the fact that before him were the men and women who were to decide whether he would languish behind bars, or be released back into society to enjoy his freedom.
What did it mean?
I would have expected to see, at this point, a man with both feet firmly planted on the ground, sat bolt upright, and with hands either self-restrained (possibly with his hands clasped and fingers interlaced, or sitting on his hands) or performing some sort of pacifying motions, like rubbing his thighs or neck.
If it had been me in front of a jury with my liberty at stake, I would have been a bundle of nerves.
But he wasn't.
His body language was extraordinarily contrary to what I ought to have seen.
But again, why?
I reasoned that there were two possibilities - the first was that the defendant was convinced of his innocence and that the facts surrounding the case were so obviously self-evident, that the trial was a mere formality. The second and more sinister conclusion was that the man, despite his wholesome appearance, was no stranger to a courtroom and had appeared so often in one to make an accounting of himself for previous crimes, that the processes of the judicial system had become familiar enough to him that the prospect of appearing in a courtroom no longer riled his nerves.
But which scenario was more likely?
An examination of the prosecuting attorney displayed a confident individual. When addressing the jury box, he took an open stance, made strong eye contact, and was not hesitant in his speech patterns.
After the prosecuting attorney was through addressing the jurors, the defense stood. By contrast, he stammered often, crossed his arms to the point of appearing to hug himself in a self-assuring way whenever he faced the jury box, and avoided eye contact.
The behavior of the two attorneys rounded out the data set I needed. It was now highly unlikely that the first of the two possible conclusions could be true - the defense was frightened by the jury box, the prosecutor was poised and confident. He was secure in the strength of his case and therefore the defendant's comfort in the courtroom had to have come from a comprehensive experience within its walls.
I was dismissed from the case subsequently, and was not able to witness the actual trial.
However, a public record search of the court records after the conclusion of the jury trial disclosed that the defendant had been found guilty of all five counts and that he had an arrest record that was staggering and which spanned nearly a decade.
My deductions had proved correct.