The Trial: A Story of Patience

December 3rd, 2006

This story is about waiting. Actually, it’s about the rape of a drunk woman in a car. It is ‘the trial’ story I’ve been working on. But so far it’s mostly been waiting.(at left: Prosecuting Attorney Scott Leist)

This is round two; in the first trial the defendant was convicted of all charges but the rape and in the case of rape 11 of 12 jurors found him guilty. Because of the hung jury we enter round two. Originally slated for April 2005 the trial was pushed, pushed, and pushed again. It is now scheduled for February 5, 2007. *IF* it goes to trial.

The defendant could plead guilty which would save the victim the emotional trauma of revisiting the moment. She told me last spring, over the phone, that every time the trial date nears, her anxiety goes out the roof. She will get a call; three days’ notice to appear in court so she puts her life on hold and flies to Seattle from D.C.

If the defendant pleads innocent, it’s up to the second jury to decide. For me, here’s the crux: I am ‘media’ and I have a story concept and this one has fit my narrative needs. I’ve lined up my contacts but, more importantly, I’ve got a victim who says she is in a safe emotional state to work with me. If the defendant pleads guilty there is no trial and I will not have a story.

I think about it…and find my position very selfish. Until I rationalize; victims who want to tell their story often have a reason. Usually that reason is to show others they can survive, and in the case of a trial, that there is some justice in the world.

I’ve quoted the prosecuting attorney Scott Leist before, but I feel I have to paraphrase him again. It is why he is in this work. He asks, were it not true, who would choose to put themselves through the inquisition an allegation of rape will bring? Yes, he acknowledges, there are many false accusations but they don’t make it very far–often not even to his desk, much less to trial. For those who end up on the witness stand, who look at the alleged attacker, point to him or her and say “Yes, that person,” for those people Leist has the utmost respect for their courage. Especially the children. (at left: Leist and a defense attorney scheduling trials)

Leist has seven years with the Seattle Police. He has done vice, gangs, and tactical. He is tall, fit, has a self-deprecating sense of humor, and confesses to loving fast food. His office is decorated the scrawling art of his children. He practices his opening statements in front of his wife while she is seated in the children’s playroom. And he cries when he thinks of what a victim goes through to bring someone to justice.

I think about waiting for this story; I really haven’t done much. I think about the victim, what her experience will be, and how I have no real concept of it. And I think of the defendent. If indeed he is guilty, I want him to plead guilty. I don’t want the victim to have to go through this trial again. And, while I want a story, I know if I wait there will be another. And another. And another. (at right: court room benches)

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