Opening statements in my brother’s trial began a bit less than two hours ago. Although I had been given reason to believe I might get to watch opening statements, a last-minute motion separated me from the proceedings until either I am released as a witness or we reach the closing statements. I’m OK with that — I’ll still be here every day.
“Here”, in this instance, is an 8 x 10 room in the courthouse, connected to the courtroom by a short hallway. The walls are white; the chair-rail and baseboards are beige, and the chairs are black and blue knockoffs of a modernist design, the sort one might find at the DMV or a pharmacy. The table has a cherry-finished laminate top; the lights are fluorescent. Mrs. M would think it cold — I’m pretty comfortable.
The courtroom itself is the smaller of the two on this floor. The decor is long on oaken finishes, and portraits of judges past line the walls. The gallery — where I had been sitting before my mandatory relocation — is a series of wooden pews with a central aisle. It takes up about two thirds of the room — the effect is one of a Puritan church. The remaining third is where the action takes place. A wooden “fence” about 30 inches tall separates the sections. The center aisle continues there, but the way is somewhat blocked today by news cameras.
From the gallery, one sees the prosecution’s desk at the left, just before the jury box (six men, six women, two male alternates). The lower near edge of the prosecution’s desk is covered with strips of duct tape — a deputy told me it was because the edge was sharp and tended to snag slacks and skirts. The defense desk, where my brother sits amidst his attorneys, is on the right-hand side, near the witness stand. Both sides have an array of boxes and binders, presumably filled with evidence, statements, motions, and records, but if this were tried by the pound, I suspect it would favor the prosecution. Both desks have coffee urns and cups, and the participants carry larger drink containers as well. I saw no duct tape on the defense desk.
At the front and center of the room is the judge’s desk — large and appropriately impressive, in front of a door with the state seal that leads, I guess, to his chambers. He has, among other things, a button that drowns the gallery in white noise during conferences/sidebars at his desk. The court reporter sits to his left — our right, and there are smaller doors in that far right corner that lead to other rooms like the one in which I sit.
And so, about 25 yards from me, over my right shoulder, sits my brother, on trial for his life, and for taking the lives of our parents. In a different way, my life waits on the scales as well, but I can’t see or hear what’s happening. All I can do is offer the truth when asked, and hope that the people in that larger room can put it in context.
Four years and 85 days ago, my parents were shot to death. This is the first day of the trial.