While Jill and Dan represented Joe Younger in court Samantha attended the trial every day. She prepped every night and offered insight, case law and support. Here is what things looked like through her eyes.
The courtroom is fairly quiet Tuesday morning while everyone is waiting for Judge Hallmark to take the stand. Then a noise, a noise that has haunted me ever since, was heard echoing down the hallway. This noise was a sound of tragic injustice. This noise was the sound of co-Defendant, turned “cooperating” witness, Tom’s shackles echoing down the hallway as he shuffled his way towards the courtroom.
This noise haunts me because this could be Joe’s future. A child shackled and escorted by guards. A child in prison, with adults, for up to 15 years. A child who has had his innocence and now maybe his life stolen from him because his friend, the accuser Jack, got mad at him and lied, and nobody stopped him. Nobody stopped the lies, nobody did their job; and, now a smart, bright, funny, caring young man’s life may be taken from him.
On Cross-examination Detective Hamlin testifies under oath that he realizes he has a duty to be open-minded when an accuser reports a crime has been admitted. However, when Dan asks, “Jack is simply an accuser in this case?” Detective Hamlin replies, “Call him what you want. I call him a victim. He represented himself as a victim that night and that’s when I decided he was a victim.” Detective Hamlin admits that when an officer does not have an open-mind and does not do a thorough investigation, this can lead to wrong charges, an innocent person having to stand trial, and even lead to innocent person being convicted.
The next day Joe finally gets to tell his side of the story after 9 months of lies and illogical accusations. Finally, after a week of trial Joe gets to speak. Joe, now 16 years old, is the most well-spoken and believable witness in this trial. This is probably because he is the only one who has nothing to hide. He told the jury exactly what happened on September 22, 2009. It was just an ordinary day. He wanted to play and hang out with his friends. And, that is exactly what he did. Joe, 145 pounds at the time, explained that he did not assault or falsely imprison his 250-pound friend Jack. They were playing a game and Jack got mad and threw a fit just like he did during the preliminary exam and just like he did at trial. It is that simple. The Prosecutor tried her best to cross-examine Joe, but she failed. It is not her fault though, because it is impossible to trip someone up in a lie when they are telling the truth like Joe is.
Closing arguments finished around 3 pm and now it is time for the jury to deliberate. It has been months of non-stop preparation and a week of fighting for Joe’s life in the courtroom. Never a quiet moment. But, now that is all we are left with, silence. There is nothing left anyone one can do for Joe it is in the hands of the jury. All we can think is, did we do enough to save his life.
The judge informs us that the jury only came to agreement on the second of four counts, and that is the Criminal Sexual Conduct (2nd degree) charged under the accomplice theory. The jury comes out and tells the court they cannot come to an agreement on the other 3 charges. The judge asks them to deliberate some more.
It is now 5 pm. We are the only ones left in the courthouse. It is just us and the silence. And the silence is deafening. Every time a door opens or we hear someone walking down the hall we look up, hearts racing, wondering – is this it, is there a verdict, did we save Joe’s life. The most silent and the longest hour of probably anyone one of our lives slowly ticks by and the Judge calls us back in to the courtroom. The jury still cannot agree to three out of four of the charges against Joe. The judge dismisses the jury for the night, to reconvene at 9 am Friday morning. Another sleepless night and another day of waiting to see what Joe’s future will be.