It was just after lunch as I ignored the knocking at the courtroom door. The Jury sent back a communication “we have reached a verdict” and myself, the Defendant (a man charged with abusing his girlfriend-of-many-years) and the Prosecutor were taking our places at counsel tables. Other Attorneys and Prosecutors are taking their seats in the gallery to hear the verdict. As soon as we’re ready, the Jury will come in and say “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” and his life will change forever, accordingly.
“THEY TOOK HIM AWAY FROM ME! NOOOOOOOOOO!”
The wail was unmistakenly his girlfriend-of-many-years. This I couldn’t ignore. If the jury is influenced at all by her yelling through the walls of the courthouse, it is a mistrial and we get to start the trial over from square one. That wouldn’t benefit the Defendant. I go through the double doors out of the Courtroom. This is on the eighth floor of 1111 Ala Kea, the District Courthouse. A factory of Abuse and TRO trials. A factory to make jury trials and make jury attorneys. And the girlfriend-of-many-years is standing at the front door of the courtroom screaming.
I held a finger to my lips. “Shhhhhhhhhhh–“, “SHHHHHHHHH–‘ “SHUT UP!”
She got quiet real fast. It turned out, the girlfriend-of-many-years also had an alcohol problem-of-many-years. I learned this a week before when she came to my office together with the Defendant and I had a great conversation with her first. While she waited then in the van where they both lived as I spoke to him. When I came outside she was a totally different person. Screaming about how he was going to rape and beat her if I left her with him. He had been with me for an hour, so he hadn’t said anything to set her off. He told me simply: “Mouthwash.” What? “She must’ve hid mouthwash in the van, and drank it while we were inside. She does that, y’know.”
To date it was the only time I’ve ever offered a complaining witness money, for a cab, for a hotel room, just to leave my office. She didn’t take it.
Back outside the courtroom I asked her. “Did you drink?” Noooooooooo
“Did you drink?” Noooooooooooooo
“How many drinks did you have?” Two fingers went up. It is almost a joke among DUI cops that every person will say “two drinks, that’s all officer. I promise.”
What happened is, she came to court in the morning and got her Subpoena money. And that was enough for her to go out, drink her lunch, and then miss her boyfriend-of many years. I opened the door to the witness room.
“Get in there. GET IN THERE! Look, you’re going to sit here, and you’re not going to say a word. Nothing! If I hear one word from you, so much as a word, if you leave this room, you will NEVER see your boyfriend again. EVER!”
She put two hands over her mouth. Sat in the corner.
The Jury came in the courtroom as we all held our breath. The judge read the verdict from the jury and thanked them for their service. The Defendant turned to me and shook my hand, I leaned in and told him that she was waiting for him in the witness room outside. He told me, “I made a promise to her father, y’know….” and trailed off.
I often wonder what happened to both of them. I never saw either one of them again.