Jury Duty

I had a week I will not soon forget. Being called for jury duty can be a pain, but when you get put on a case this bad, it makes you wonder if you were a harp-seal clubber in a past life, and now need to pay off some karma.

What was the case? Child sexual abuse against two girls, one going back to age 6. 19 different counts of rape and other nastiness. The trial lasted 5 totally exhausting days, we finished with our verdict yesterday (Friday afternoon). We knew it was going to be happy case when, during jury selection, the lawyer for the accused used all her challenges trying to exclude young women from the jury.

The case was made even more difficult by the complete lack of physical/forensic evidence. It was all stories, and a matter of who you believed. (One thing we did discover is just how easy it is to see how the lawyers are trying to manipulate the jury, and how we would later try to double-think their moves to figure out what they were trying to lead us AWAY from, as that could be just as interesting.)

The verdict- not guilty on all 19 counts. Our opinion? The stepdaughter was almost certainly molested when she was 6, that testimony had details and emotional character different from all the rest. But we cannot say that he is the one that did it, there were opportunities other men had during that time frame (and we know lots about the life of this family back in the mid-90’s now). Thus reasonable doubt, and a not-guilty verdict. Both the step-daughter and her friend may well have been groped by the accused over the last few years. The problem was that their testimony included accusations of much more severe offenses, and the details of when/where those happened fell apart (not physically possible in one case). We think that the girls (being 13 at time of complaint) may not have realized that “just” groping is quite a serious charge in itself, and tried to “jazz-up” the charges with more serious crimes. The problem was that when the more serious crimes fell apart (evidence-wise), it entered serious doubts as to their credibility, and thus we had to rule not-guilty on the lesser touching-crimes.

What really made everything more difficult was that the kids had about 2 days together after the accusations were first expressed (to their friends at school) before they were initially questioned by the police and separated. So when their accounts were videotaped the following day we had to know that they had had too much time to discuss the incidents with each other. If they had told those stories the day of the first revelation we would have taken their testimony very differently.

Concentrating that hard, for that long, every day is brutal. All you have is truth and lies, so we were staring at every withness (accused, accusers, friends, family) looking for the smallest hint of body language that would give us a clue as to who was telling the truth, who was lying, who was covering up or telling half-truths. Really tough to do! All 12 of us complained how exhausted we were each evening after the day in court.

I thought it was very nice of the judge, during the closing comments of the case, to mention that he agreed with the our verdict. I know it will all help us sleep well. (Better than him exclaiming “WHAT!” as the verdicts were read!)

I know that some of the people who read this blog have had much more…personal… experience with abuse. Coming at the issues from within a court of law was interesting. We judged the facts, as was our duty. We were instructed as to the law. We made our judgements. We were unanimous, and nobody in the jury-room was browbeat into compliance. The result may not be perfect, but it was the right one. No system is perfect, but we 12 were a good cross-section of New Zealand (7 men, 5 women, age 21 to 65, 4 immigrants, a range of professions and educational backgrounds, some singles, some with kids or grandkids) and applied standards of common decency and common sense. I don’t think there is a system that would be more likely to produce better results.

But that was not all that happened on Friday. On my way to the court house a woman was assaulted (knocked to the ground) behind me as I crossed a street. I went back to see if she was okay, and she pointed at a man (disappearing down the streat) and informed us of what had happened, so I found myself running down the street in pursuit. Didn’t catch him. When do I get my cape and mask? Friday really was a day when Stephen-Agent of Justice was patrolling the streets of Wellington.

What we've been up to

Okay, been a little busy.

Saturday was the Halloween party — “Just when you thought you were safe, the Holiday That Would Not Die !!!” We ended up having it at Sybille’s place, since it’s more accessible by public transport. Lots and lots of people, many in quite good costumes. Stephen and I rented dark suits and wore blue neoprene gloves. The half-dozen people at the party that had seen Firefly reacted appropriately, but several people who hadn’t decided that we were creepy enough even without knowing the context. I think Sybille and Melanie probably tie for most elaborate costume (though more of Sybille’s had to be made up prior) — Sybille was a funky Brian Froud-style fairy, with horns and ivy and everything; Melanie came as “The Spanish Lady”, AKA The Spanish Influenza. Stephen actually had two costumes. Sybille’s front entrance is a little enclosed walkway — you have to put your hand through an opening in the door to work the latch to let yourself inside. Stephen posted himself as “door-demon” and got some good shrieks by grabbing people’s hands as they stuck them blindly through the door. Discovery: Absinthe is legal here ! Dayna brought a bottle, though we couldn’t do the little ritual with the spoon and the sugar and stuff. Next time. Wow, that stuff is strong, though. It’s like if you took the anise-flavored Nyquil and distilled it into a vodka — one sip and your whole head feels warm for, like, the next five minutes.

Sunday, we… what did we do Sunday ? I *knew* I should have written this up sooner ! Well, I know one of the things we did was move the critters into the gallop paddock. *That* was a hoot, watching the boys — especially Jim — race all over. They obviously enjoy being able to really stretch their legs after being kept in relatively small paddocks. Okay, you know the little “Ba-doink! Ba-Doink! Ba-doink!” hopping run that Pepe le Pew does in the Warner Brothers cartoons ? Seeing a full-grown llama do that is the cutest thing ever.

It was Miyazaki Monday with Sharon again. We watched Ponpoko. NOT a pick-me-up film. The cute, happy-go-lucky protagonists just make it that much more agonizingly depressing. I thought it was neat the way they manipulated the depiction of the Tanuki so that sometimes they were drawn realistically, and sometimes they were cartoon characters depending on how each scene was meant to hit the viewer.

Wednesday night, we’d been invited to the big annual US ex-pat Thanksgiving do. They’ve got a nice arrangement with a restaurant in one of the bays — the restaurant provides the turkey and gravy, (and a cash bar) and everyone who comes brings their favorite side dish/dessert. Sort of a semi-pot luck. Got to hang out with Hillary and David a bit, met some nice people, and, of course, stuffed ourselves.


Dear Dog Breeder

I don’t care if you are a professional breeder who makes dogs have sex for your livelihood, or if you are an amateur who just likes making sure your canine companion gets some every now and then.

Please do not breed your poodle to some other random dog for the express purpose of coming up with some dumb name for the hybrid ending in “-oodle”. “Labradoodle” was bad enough. “Schnoodle” sounds like some kind of screwed up Asian hot pot, “Groodle” and “Cavoodle” are just nonsense, “Spoodle” is what you do until the Novacaine wears off, and “Choodle” sounds like what you do leaning over the toilet after you’ve accidentally eaten the Schnoodle that’s been quietly going moldy in the back of the fridge.

Seriously. Call the pup a “crossbreed” and stop embarrassing yourself.




It appears that there is bugger all I can do about the %^$&ing spambots until I get home, and even then, the only thing I can do is lock the blog down so no one can comment. Bloody f%@$ing hell.