Yesterday I went on a school excursion to court. One of the cases we observed was a criminal one with a jury. We got to see the end of it - the accused being examined and then cross examined. He has been accused of sexually molestng young teenage boys. The alleged offences were from 20 years ago or so. Anyhow - the part that has been on my mind. Haunting me and making me a little melancholy was the second (the accused being the first) and final witness called by the defence. She was a stout and shortish woman. She had lank cropped silver grey hair and used a cane. Her face was careworn but I thought it had a beauty in in too. She was dressed in cheap comfortable clothes and carried a holdall bag patterened with a patchwork design - like many a country granny might. Occassionally she cast a warm gaze over to her husband as he sat in the dock. At the end of her evidence she looked over towards him as she left the court room with warm brown eyes and nodded. It nearly broke my heart.
I have no idea whether he is guilty or not (although based on the little I saw I wouldn't be surprised if he is convicted next week when the jury have to meet to deliberate). What I found remarkable was her testimony. She had not heard any of the other witnesses obviously. She hadn't heard his evidence either - and some of her answers sounded as if they were clearly trying to protect him even while they contradicted parts of his own testimony.
The students were totally wrapt in the real life drama - they were staring at him wondering if he was guilty or not, wondering what it would be like to be one of the twelve jurors in the matter. I was transfixed by her. What was her story I wondered? How must she feel? Her world was clearly upside down and must have been for the past 2 years since he was arrested. He had been remanded in custody from the looks of it.
As we were leaving she exited the building too. She shuffled out in front of us through the roundabout doors. She seemed strong and proud and broken all at once. And she was alone. I was about to head off for a little shop - you know a treat because I was on excursion - I bought some lovley winter stockings and some bubble bath and a scented candle for the home. Lovely. Where was she going to I wondered. It was such a marked contrast to my life - and yet she must have been doing things just like me once - before all this. Surely she needed to have someone there to help her? Someone she trusts to offer her support. They had children - 3 I think - where were they in all of this? I prayed to God that there was someone to make her a cup of tea and smile for her. She struck me as brave and perhaps stupid but oh so vulnerable.
Next week if he is found guilty - what happens to her? Will she get to read the court transcripts to at least help her understand what transpired there? Will the defence lawyers offer her some support or direct her to couselling? I don't know but I hope so. I guess for her it may not matter anyway - she had that fatalistic air of 'S**t happens in life and you just deal with it'. I suppose she needs it too.