Voir Dire Drama
We all kind of stumbled into the marble hallways wide-eyed and gasping. We huddled, all of us from the gallery. There aren't many of us left at the end of this trial - it has been a grueling five weeks. But there we were in a huddle trying to understand what had just happened.
Up till now, I've hinted that it was all old arguments. Nothing new - perhaps little bits of new details important to me - but nothing new in terms of arguments.
Friday - it was all new! The Defence filed Charter Motion - Section 7 - that which protects an individual's autonomy and personal legal rights from actions of the government in Canada.
Beginning of the day, we had no idea what Section 7 had to do with a murder trial. At the end of a rather long morning - we had seen it in action. We were stunned.
Wielding Section 7 like a mechanic's wrench and sledge hammer - the Defence had very deliberately and skillfully begun to strip the case: first the tires were disengaged and rolled away, then the motor hoisted and gone, the seats pulled and ripped out and then even the mirrors of this perfectly fine automobile of justice just disappeared.
Using the best of his two DNA experts, the Defence described the work of the lab, Molecular World, as "fatally flawed," saying that there had never been enough evidence to even arrest the accused in the first place. The tires were just rolled away.
Then he said that the runs, all of the runs - the three runs of Mitochondrial, YSTR - and the STR DNA runs - were all so "scientifically corrupt" as to make them completely unreliable and inadmissible. There went the motor.
He shredded the reputation of the two Molecular DNA lab experts - how saying that their response to "last shot" - in which they had compared the test results of the accused with the evidence - proved they were incompetent, compromised and biased scientists. The entire insides of the car were gone. It had all been stripped right down. Even the rear view mirrors had disappeared.
And then with one last dramatic sweep, he attacked the "consumption" of the last DNA. "Reproducibility is the ability of an entire experiment or study to be duplicated, either by the same researcher or by someone else working independently. and reproducibility is one of the key tenets of Justice." he said, "destruction can be obstruction of justice." - throwing a match to it all - incinerating it all -- leaving the automobile a smoking heap of ashes....
Finally the youngest one of the Defence team - asked almost innocently -- if given the ashes, perhaps the retrial should be stayed. Stopped!
Time for recess. We stumbled into the hallway, stunned - in overtime.
"What was that? What did stay of proceedings mean? Could it happen? Could we all just go home?'
We lost all sense of time - grappling with it - until the Crown coughed slightly reminding us that break time was over. The Defence in their own huddle down the hall, and we in our huddle by the bench - quickly made our way into the courtroom. The Judge was already seated.
This is the first time this had happened - being late. "Apologies your lady," the Defence said as we all slunk back to our seats.....
Now It was time for the Crown's rebuttal. He stood up confidently - straightening his black sweeping robe. Vaguely. I wondered how he would resurrect the argument from the smoldering heap of ashes of a destroyed case. How could he breathe life into something that seemed so dead?
He didn't event try... he launched into a completely new direction.
It was as if he went to a pure white empty canvas in the middle of the room, and with a poised brush began to paint an entirely new picture with his words.
With broad strokes of blue, he began to describe the investigation from the beginning - very deliberately and carefully describing the mental processes of the investigators; how they had indeed taken all the correct actions -- choosing each step with professional, conscientious care - and with no trace of bias.
Then he dipped his brush into the dark green paint and described the "seriousness of the offence." the looming mountain range in the distance.
There was almost a holy hush as we watched.
Slowly more of the landscape began to appear - the trees, the lake - and even the birds began to fly in the sky - emerging miraculously and mysteriously as he picked through the evidence -- all of the words spoken -- and connected them all to re-create a new scene with the same confidence as the other.
"You need to be satisfied..." he said to the Judge. "You ultimately need to make the determination...." he said reassuring her as he supplied her with a fresh composition of what had happened.
And then with a the final colors of black and white, he began to outline the the elements of the last argument until he confronted the notion of the damming "consumed evidence."
"The twine - is in this room." he said gesturing towards the rather large locked box at the front of the court room. "The evidence was not consumed. It is with us in this room."
My eyes turned to the box... remained riveted on the box. The twine - the murder weapon! It was as if the presence of truth had been sitting in front of us the entire time reminding us all of what was really important.
Then using the words of the same DNA experts called by the Defence - he reconstructed the argument in a entirely different new way. "If the Defence would have wanted to -- he could have conducted his own independent analysis. All of the twine was in the box this entire time... in this room --"
Ashes and beauty. We had seen both! Drama!
Watching it all in fascination.... I suddenly knew why crime victims should attend court.
I had always resisted the notion that we need to be there as advocates for our victimized loved one. This is beyond that.... If anything it should be as advocates for truth not our people.
Secondly I had thought it was important for me to be there to witness the life of my child and hold her memory in love - which is also important. For me it was even healing.
But now -- witnessing the drama of these two skilled lawyers applying their trade --I realized something new. We need to be there so when the final judgements are made we are not vulnerable to one side of the argument. Whether we want to or not we need to be there to gain a visceral appreciation for the process of both sides.
Because at the end of that grueling day, after all of that dramatic display of pictures and words -- our petite, beautiful Judge picked up her towering stack of binders -- almost taller than herself - and left the courtroom through the side door -- all alone.
I was left in awe of her work -- the responsibility of trying to sort through all of that drama - facing the incredible challenge of sifting through it all with the Crown and the Defences' compelling rhetoric as background music - to come back to us -- with a reasoned argument.
She promised to form her ruling as quickly as she could -- and come back for closing arguments, May 11 & 12.
“All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” Sean O'Casey