Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 472(231) Murder Trial

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery. I've entitled this podcast "Murder Trial".

Retirement has its advantages. One of them is that you can see things you may never have seen before. You don't have to get on an airplane. You don't have to travel around the world. The exotic may lie very near your front door. For us, it was at the municipal court house in Anchorage, Alaska.

Mary was a diminutive 60 something year old native woman. She came into the court room visible shaken. She took the oath and sat down. The defense attorney asked her how she was feeling. "I'm scared", she said. "And I'm angry."

"Why are you scared Mary? Did something just happen?" The attorney asked.

"Yes. That big policeman came into the room I was waiting in - just next door. And he yelled at me. He scared me. He tried to bully me."

"What did he say?"

"He said he was a policeman and he wanted to talk to me. But he was loud and he frightened me. He intimidated me. I don't talk to bullies."

The defense attorney turned to his investigator and asked her to try to get the policeman into the courtroom. She did.

He was a big guy. Mary said he was, "over six foot tall and I know because my husband was over six foot tall." He was a plain clothes detective who had sat at the prosecutors table throughout the trial.

"Is this the man?" the defense attorney asked.

"Yes, that's him. He scares me. I'm still scared."

A long scheduled trip to visit our son and family just happened to coincide with the trial. The accused was a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan.

What was I doing at the trial? We had never seen our son in court. He has been a Public Defender for 16 years, which is a long time in that business. The burnout rate is high and so is the incentive to go into private practice. He likes his job. He defends people who most of us would not want to meet, let alone help. This case was no exception.

This time his client was accused of shooting his wife and six month old baby and then placing the gun barrel just under his chin and blowing a hole in his own head. The bullet didn't kill him. It lobotomized him. It separated the frontal lobe from the rest of the brain. He regained consciousness in the hospital.  He has no memory of what happened. The crime was discovered two days after it took place. He was alive and so as he lay unconscious, bathed in his own blood, the police slapped the cuffs on him and classified him as a suspect for a double homicide.

We hear of murder all the time. We see TV dramas concerning trials, but to observe a real trial dealing with such tragedy is quite an experience. The reason I write about this topic is because I think many retired people might find it highly interesting and educational to observe our legal system in action. We found each session stimulating and thought provoking.

Usually our son schedules a vacation when we visit but this time he was in trail mode. Court dates kept getting pushed around until our visit just happened to coincide with the trial. He was focused. We would have to adjust to the situation.

Our sixteen year old granddaughter was also keen on attending the trial so we spent five days in the court room. We counted one of the five days when the news reported something we considered fairly accurate concerning what we had witnessed in the case. For example, the incident with the police detective bullying the witness never appeared in any press.

Police had never responded to the 911 call the Mary and her sister  had made concerning the incident. Their testimony ran something close to this: "We were embroidering and then stepped out on the balcony for a smoke. It is a smoke free building. Then we heard two men shouting at each other. They were angry voices.  A woman had screamed and then we heard gunshots. A few minutes later we heard squealing tires like someone leaving fast."   This testimony seemed to carry no weight for the jury. The possibility of someone else being involved in the crime never gained traction. The door had been locked from the inside. It was the accused's gun.  Who else could have done it?

The fact that all of the blood and prints that were found at the scene were never tested never impressed the jury. The lack of police investigation left us surprised. Then again, it didn't matter in the end. 

The jury bought the case as presented by the state and convicted the young soldier. He will be sentenced in the fall. It seems fairly certain that he will be locked away forever.

A sad story. His friends, army buddies, and mother of the wife he was accused of killing all described him as kind and gentle. "I've never heard him raise his voice," the murder victim's mother said.

What happened? Why would he do such a thing if he did indeed do it? Was it Afghanistan? PTSD? Post traumatic stress disorder? Here is a young guy who is part of a horrific picture - accused and convicted of killing his wife and child. What could be more damning? Now he is faced with being locked away for the rest of his life. Part of his brain is missing. All he knows about the tragedy is what he has been told.

Retirement allows us time to expand our horizons. New experiences may be closer than we think. You might want to keep an eye on the local court house calendar.

This is retirement talk with something to think about.

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