On August 24, 2011, I attended our 8th pre trial hearing for my sister’s murderer. Our first jury trial date was June 7, 2010, only to be continued until June 21, 2010, only to be continued to September 13, 2010, only to be continued until November 29, 2010, only to be continued until March 7, 2011, only to be continued until May 16, 2011, only to be continued until July 11, 2011, only to be continued until September 6, 2011.
Yesterday there was no mention of any more continuances. The judge even cancelled her vacation so the jury trial could begin on the scheduled date. Finally, after all the waiting, after finding and holding onto the patience I have learned, in 12 days we will enter the courtroom to begin the trial of the man accused of brutally murdering my sister.
In the state in which we live in, anyone accused of murder receives no bond. They remain in county jail until either they plead guilty or go through a jury trial. The man accused of murdering my sister has spent 512 days in jail. Our family has been more or less held hostage waiting first for an arrest, then for a trial, for 700 days.
When we left the courtroom yesterday, I think I was in shock. Shocked that there wasn’t another continuance. Shocked that we were actually going to go to trial. I was also afraid. Afraid to actually believe it will all happen. Still a little pessimistic, who could blame me?
My mind races now with thoughts of what I need to do to prepare for court. Our family has been coached on what to expect in court. We have been told that as survivors of the victim, the jury will watch us closely. They will notice our reactions, they will notice what we wear, how we behave in court. We were told to dress nicely, conservatively.
We have been told to adhere to the court room rules. No talking. No outward display of emotions. Tears are okay, but they must be silent tears. If any of us get to a point we feel an outburst of emotion coming on, the victim’s advocate will leave the court room with us. We have been told that if any of the accused’s family is in court, they will look at us like we are to blame. How dare us accuse their son, brother, husband etc. We have been told, hearing everything that is said in court will most likely force us back into reliving the first few days after my sister’s murder. I relive those moments from time to time, never on display though.
I have had a mental checklist of things I need to do to prepare for court. Today, I began writing the list out on paper. I have the nice, conservative clothes to wear. I have the purse big enough to accommodate a box of Kleenex. I have the small notebooks and pens for myself and my other two sisters so we can communicate in the courtroom without talking. I have the big sunglasses to wear when we leave the courtroom trying to conceal myself from the media.
I still need to get more bottled water, a few snacks to put into my huge purse and a fresh supply of ibuprofen. I need to give the only neighbor I trust, a key to my home so she can look after my dog if I’m gone for more than 10 hours. Last week for the 8th time, I penciled in the days I request off for the trial. Tomorrow, do I dare write them in ink?
I woke up this morning thinking, it’s really going to happen. In a few weeks, the trial will be over. The dark cloud will be gone…or will it? I question if I have the strength to endure the upcoming events. Will I be able to control my emotions? In my heart, I know I have to, for my sister. I want and need to be there for her. Once again, I find myself holding onto that hope I’ve depended on so much over the past 700 days. Hope, once again, will sustain me.
Shirley Wiles-Dickinson 2011