For the last little while my blog has been all about the trial. I’ve been studying, questioning, and dissecting everything I’ve seen and heard and noticed. I took tons of notes. At some point I’m just going to suck it up and pay for the entire court transcript, though, because there is no way I caught it all.
I find it extremely interesting to see a trial unfold. What steps did the police take to solve the case? Was it the forensics? DNA? Maybe some video footage from a nearby security camera? And then there are the lawyers. Can I just tell you how cool I thought it was that I’d get to watch Matt Murphy in action? (I’d seen him on Dateline.)
Just from a courtroom junkie’s point of view, Daniel’s trial had it all. That’s why the media was always there in full force. But watching a court case on 48 Hours or 20/20 is a very different experience from being there in person. I wasn’t on the couch in my jammies. (I did sometimes eat snacks, though. Very quiet snacks.)
I had a personal interest in this case. This was my friend on trial. My friend who did some terrible and unforgivable things (and he’s the first to admit that), but still my friend.
You know, basically I do write this blog for myself. It’s a creative outlet, and it gives me a way to really scrutinize and investigate my friendship with Daniel, especially now that he is a convicted murderer.
I felt wound up and nervous when I sat in that courtroom. It was easy for people to figure out I was there to support Daniel. He’d glance around and smile at me when he was walked in, and I’d see people turn around and try to figure me out. I knew that some of the principal players were reading my blog and I always felt this urge to explain myself. I wanted to tell people that I don’t think Daniel is innocent. I don’t feel sorry for him that he’s in jail. I don’t doubt that he is a murderer, but I know he isn’t a monster.
I can already hear some of you typing your comments.
The jury did not agree with me. It took them less than an hour to decide Daniel should die.
When they went into deliberations at around 3:30, I don’t think anyone was expecting a verdict that day. Just in case, I had decided to hang around until 5:00 because that’s when the jury would go home for the day. A number of other people seemed to be doing the same thing.
Earlier that day, during the lunch break, I’d approached Mike the Bailiff to make a request. I really wanted to be present when the jury came back with the verdict. Whether you believe Daniel deserves to have a friend or not, I was determined he’d have one in court when he learned his fate. So I wanted to know how I could get on a list of people who are notified when a verdict comes in. The media people always seemed to know when things were happening and I thought there might be some kind of computerized contact list I could get on. I didn’t want a phone call or anything. I was just hoping for a group text.
I asked Mike if he knew who I was (Daniel’s friend). He smiled and said, “Hey there, blue hair.” Him quoting my blog made me laugh and helped me feel a little calmer (thanks, Mike).
Mike explained to me that there was no contact list. If I wanted to be notified, I would need to ask lead defense attorney Scott Sanders about it.
It’s ironic that even though I was there to support Daniel, I’d had virtually no contact with Scott. I wasn’t sure about his feeling on having a blogger write about his client at the same time he was trying to save the guy from the death penalty. The idea of approaching Scott made me nervous, but I was determined to not miss the reading of the verdict.
Remember, this was happening during the lunch break when I still thought the jury might actually take longer than 45 minutes to decide if Daniel should die.
So, I decided to muster my courage and try to talk to…Tracy LeSage Scott’s way-less-intense second in command.
When I saw the defense team getting off the elevator after lunch, I figured this was my best chance to get on that “group text” list I hoped existed. They all went into the courtroom, and I slipped in right after them.
Scott and Tracy were deep in discussion and pouring over paperwork, so I thought maybe I could get away with asking one of the young assistant lawyer guys about contacting me. I hoped I could discreetly give him my cell number and sneak away.
Scott stopped talking and looked up at me from his papers. As I choked out my request, I felt a tad out of place with my blue hair and tattoos. And I’m so short, I felt like a little kid standing in the middle of this sea of suit-wearing real grownups.
Scott Sanders looked perplexed. Then, he said that was fine, and to give my number to the other lawyer guy, who would call me when the verdict was in.
Calling. Old school.
Later, Daniel told me that Scott Sanders had asked him if it was okay for me to be contacted. Daniel did want me called, but it turned out to be a moot point anyway.
I was one of the few people still in the courtroom when the phone rang on Mike the Bailiff’s desk. I figured it would just be the jury asking a question. Maybe they needed a part of the transcript read back to them. Perhaps they wanted some clarification on the specifics of a law.
Even Mike looked surprised when he announced that the jury already a verdict.
I stayed in my seat while the news spread to the people in the hallway. No one needed to be called on the phone.
I was more worried than I’d thought I’d be. I had always expected the jury would choose the death penalty, but inside me there was still a little battle going on between hope and fear. Admittedly, fear was kicking hope’s ass because of how fast the jury was coming back. There wasn’t nearly enough time for them to get all existential and decide that “an eye for an eye” might not be the way to go.
Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones sat all together in the center section in an obvious showing of solidarity. People clung to each other and held hands.
I was surprised how quickly the water works came on me as soon as the verdict was announced. Lots of people were crying and wailing. It seemed more like tears of relief than of happiness, with an underlying feeling of heartbreak.
When it was all finished, the jury members smiled at the Herrs and the Kibuishis while they filed past them down the aisle. Eventually everyone had left the courtroom except me and Mike. I asked him if I could hang out for a few minutes and he obliged. I just couldn’t bring myself to go out in that crowded hallway quite yet.
I sat there with my face in my hands, crying for everyone.